The REDigion Blog

Raising Earnest Disciples (John 8:31)

WE HAVE MOVED…

4 days

It has been a season of joy and laughter
Of rain, of cold, of heat and summer
With God and us, it can only get better
As the steps we take get bigger and firmer
We move to a place where the light is brighter
And we know that each day, we shall grow stronger

Let’s do it again together
It’s happening at http://www.redigionng.com now thither.

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TRIANGULAR (14)

Happy New Week, friends! Today, we go a step further with ‘Triangular’ and hope it has been a pleasant ride for you. Please note that today, 5th January 2015, we shall be moving REDigion to her new home and everyone is invited. The new REDigion offers much more for your spiritual journey and walk with Christ. There is something in it for everyone. Please follow/subscribe on the site so you can keep to date with everything.  You can also follow REDigion on Facebook and Twitter to get updates. Trust me, what God has in store for you through REDigion will blow your mind. Bookmark the page and invite people along. Let’s do this together!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has shared, tweeted, subscribed, commented, liked, read and followed REDigion on this platform. Now, let’s take it to a bigger stage. 2015 will be a beautiful walk. Together in Christ.

Now, the 14th episode…

 

TUESDAY, 15TH JULY 2014

4.00pm – St. George’s Hospital, Ikoyi

Dr. Aluko sat in his large office filled with books and some medical tools. He was tired. Today had been very hectic for him after going through one surgery to another, barely having time to rest in-between. His fingers were tired and his eyes drowsy. He yawned, grateful his shift was finally over. A knock on the door got a reluctant response from him.

The door opened and a head peeped in. It was the Head Nurse. “You have a visitor sir. Can she come in?”

Dr. Aluko scowled. “Can’t you see my shift is over? I cannot see anybody now. Please refer her to another doctor.”

The door opened wider and the nurse came in fully, closing the door behind her. “I did but she insisted it was you she wanted to see. I am sorry you are tired, but she said she would not leave until she sees you. She is a bit stubborn.”

“Is she one of our registered patients?”

“Mrs. Williams.”

“Oh!” The doctor sat straight and adjusted his overall. “You should have told me it was her. She is one of our Diamond Patients. Please send her in.”

The nurse nodded and left the room. A minute later, the door opened and she ushered the Patient in. When Dr. Aluko saw Lola, he became perturbed when he saw the look on her face. Immediately she sat down, he got down to business.

“Good evening, Mrs. Williams. You don’t look well. Is the nurse not taking good care of you?”

“Good afternoon, Doctor. I must thank you for creating time for me.” Lola settled fully into the chair. “Nurse Titi is doing her best. But you know there are some things she still cannot do for me.”

“That was why I wanted to keep you here, but you refused. How do you feel?”

“Well, I have this occasional pain in my stomach, but that cannot be compared to the pain in my heart.”

“Your heart? What is the problem?” The doctor brought out his notepad and pen. “You know you can tell me anything.”

“You can put your note and pen back. This isn’t something your medical knowledge can cure.”

“Is this about Charles?” Dr. Aluko knew his Patient and her family issues too well. “Did he refuse to be a donor?”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“What do you mean ‘technically’? You have told him, haven’t you?”

“I did tell him or tried to, but he stated clearly that he would not come down to Nigeria any time soon because of his business interests.” Lola’s hands shook slightly. “You will not even believe that he called my husband’s younger sister to come and take care of me in his stead. How thoughtless of him!”

“You are agitated, Mrs. Williams, and that is not good for your health. I have told you that you need to keep your calm always, especially at this time.”

“How can I keep my calm when my own flesh and blood is treating me as if I am nothing but a piece of bone?” The veins in Lola’s throat throbbed with pain. “To think he is all I have now is something that is even more hurting. I wish I had another child I could turn to right now.”

Dr. Aluko did not know how to respond. He could handle matters relating to physical health, but when it came to emotional health, he could hardly treat even himself. “I am sorry you feel that way, Mrs. Williams. But we cannot keep waiting for you and Charles to be on the same page. We have to look for an alternative. Don’t you have anyone else?”

Lola quickly cleaned off the tears at the corners of her eyes. “That is why I am here, Doctor. To ask you if there is anybody you can recommend. I am ready to pay any amount to this person.”

Dr. Aluko was taken aback. He had not expected that. “Unfortunately, I cannot do that. The donor must be someone close to you because your antigens need to match, or else it will be very risky. Getting a commercial donor is difficult and against my professional ethics.”

Lola sank lower into the seat. “That means I am going to die then.”

“You will not. Can’t you think of another person in your family or your husband’s?

“Don’t you get it, Doctor? I have kept this as a secret from everyone. Once they hear of this ailment, a tussle will begin for the inheritance my husband and I have sweated all our lives for. Do you know the problems I faced from my in-laws after Tobi died, especially when they learnt he willed everything to me? No, telling them is not going to happen.”

“So there is not one of them you can trust?”

“No.” Her response was curt. There was no way she would go through the trauma she went through after Tobi’s death. This was why she had distanced herself from her in-laws. They had always been trouble.

Doctor Aluko did not know what to do. He sighed deeply. “Okay. I will get across to my contacts and see if we can find a couple of people that can donate. Hopefully, we can get one who will be compatible.”

“That would be fantastic, Doctor. I suggest you do that on time, now that I am ready to do the surgery before I change my mind. I don’t even mind having to fly to India even if I have to throw up all the way. And I also hope there will be no heart attack this time.”

The doctor smiled assuredly. “Don’t worry. You will be fine. The surgery is also very easy to perform.”

Lola stood up to leave, feeling a whole lot better. “Thank you, Doctor. At least I know there is still hope for me, even if it does not come through my son.”

“I trust you are using your medications well.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Good. Once I get any info, I will let you know.”

“Thank you, Doctor. You have been more than a Doctor to me. You are also a friend and lifesaver. Thank you so much.”

Doctor Aluko smiled. “And the pleasure is mine.”

As soon she stepped out of the office, Lola felt a surge of elation pass through her. No hope was lost after all. God would provide a way for her, even if it was through a total stranger and not her son. He would not leave her to die. She walked out of the hospital and towards her car full of hope and faith than she had ever had in recent times.

“How the meeting go, Madam?” Emeka asked as he opened the door of the car for her.

“It went very well, Emeka. Thank you.” Lola replied sweetly.

Emeka smiled in response and when he got inside the car, he asked. “Na house we dey go so?”

“No. Not yet. We have just one more place to visit. My lawyer is expecting me at 5.30pm and I do not want to be late.”

“No problem, Madam. We go reach there now now.”

“Just don’t speed too much.” Lola settled comfortably into the seat with a smile on her face.

Things were taking shape little by little. She would get a compatible donor and have the transplant done in no time. No one would even know. Her phone rang and she smiled when she saw who it was.

“Hello, Bola. How are you doing? Hope you are resting well.” She listened to her caller and then she laughed hard. “No, not at all. I am fine too and will be home soon.” She listened again. “I am not sure but I don’t think I will make it back before 9.00pm. I am on my way for a business meeting now, so don’t worry if you cannot wait up for me. You can go to sleep if I don’t come back early.” She grinned. “Thank you for checking up on me. That’s thoughtful of you. Bye for now.” She cut the phone, the smile not leaving her face. “Isn’t she a nice girl?” She asked Emeka.

“Who?” Emeka asked, not sure who she was referring to.

“Bola. The girl I brought home from the hospital.”

“She dey rude before but e be like say she don change.”

“Yes, she has. All she needed was to be put in the right direction. I have plans for her and can’t wait to share it with her when I get home.” The excitement in Lola rose even higher as she pictured the joy on Bola’s face when she gives the young girl the news. But first, she needed to see her lawyer and put all legal things in place. It was time she started that Foundation she had always wanted, her vision of taking poor girls out of the slum and placing them on their feet, giving them a chance at fulfilling their dreams by placing them on life-time education scholarships. And Bola would be the first recipient of that. How more exciting could that be?

 

***************************************

8.00pm – Lola Williams’ House

Bola was very tense. She did not know why the people in the house had refused to have an early night today of all days. Even Dupe, who was always busy, had been sitting in front of the television for hours as if she had nothing else to do. ‘Madam’ was not around so everyone was in a relaxed mood. Only Bola wasn’t. She needed everyone to retire early, but it did not look like it would happen soon.

After the scary call from ‘Chairman’ this afternoon, Bola had thought of finding a way out of the dilemma she had been put, but there was none. And she was getting really frightened. Time was running out on her. She had been given twenty four hours to do what her father’s captors demanded or he would be killed. As much as she did not like Baba, she was not ready to lose him. Excluding little Tomiwa, he was all the family she has got.

Chairman’s demand was simple. Get some costly jewelry out of the house and bring it to him at an undisclosed location tomorrow morning. He would call her to finalise where in the morning. And she had been strictly warned not to tell anyone or else she would lose her father. She did not have a choice. She knew Mrs. Williams would have some very expensive jewelry, considering the ones the woman had been wearing all these times. There were some Bola was sure would cost a lot of money. Perhaps if she could secretly lay her hands on them, she would be early enough to save her father’s life. But was she ready to betray the very person who had shown her kindness and given her life some value? What if she confided in the woman? She doubted Mrs. Williams would want to part with any of her jewelry. Plus, she did not want to involve the old woman more into this mess. Already, her residing in the house was causing trouble and who knew what more would come after this. One thing was certain, if she was able to get some of those jewelry, there would be no coming back into the house. She would have to kiss this life goodbye and run away as far as she could. And what about Tomiwa? Would she want to take him back into the dirty life they once lived? She shook her head. No, she would leave him here. This was the life she had promised to give him. And she had fulfilled her promise. He would have a good life, get the best education, grow up to be an accomplished man she would be proud of. And she? Well, she might keep running all the days of her life. She did not have a choice. She had to save Baba. He was family.

Her eyes strayed to the corridor behind them where the master bedroom was located. She wished everyone would just stand up and go to sleep, so she could gain access into that room. She glanced at the wall clock. Mrs. Williams had said she would not make it before 9.00pm, leaving a grace period of less than an hour for Bola to make the move.

“Is nobody feeling sleepy?” She yawned in pretence. “I am. We should all go and sleep. Plus Mrs. Williams must not meet you sitting in front of the TV, doing nothing.” She faced Dupe and two other workers. “You know she doesn’t like idleness.”

“You are right.” Dupe replied before turning to the others. “Madam must not see us sitting us like this o!”

“And she can come in any moment from now.” Bola quickly added. She stood up with the help of her crutches and walked towards the television, switching it off before anyone could object.

Everyone stood up hastily and said their goodbyes as they left the main house to the boys’ quarters.

“Are you not going to sleep too, Aunty Bola?” Tomiwa asked his sister as he fought to keep sleep away from his eyes.

“I will lie down here and wait for her to come before I go to sleep. You just go and sleep. I will come and meet you soon.”

“Okay.” Tomiwa rubbed his sleepy eyes as he walked towards their bedroom.

Bola laid on the sofa, waiting patiently for silence to take over the house. Once everywhere became quiet, she got out of the sofa stealthily like a cat and headed straight for the room where what she wanted laid. She was worried about one thing, though. What if Mrs. Williams had locked the door? Still, there was no harm in trying. If she did, Bola would have to devise another means.

She walked silently along the corridor to the bedroom door. She had never been to this side of the house and was a bit scared. When she got to the door, she cautiously placed her hand on the handle and tried to open the door. To her surprise, the door opened without any resistance, as if it had been waiting for her. This was too easy, Bola thought. Guilt started eating into her mind, but she waved it off. This was for Baba. She either did this or risk losing him. She doubted if she would be able to live with the guilt of his death if she failed this mission.

Once inside the room, Bola stood still for several seconds after she put on the light, amazed at how beautiful the room was. She had never been into a more spacious, more elegant bedroom. The gigantic bed which was in the middle was surrounded by art works and the marbled floor sparkled against the cream wall. On the wall laid portraits of Mrs. Williams and her husband. One of them was a picture of the couple playing in the beach when they were much younger with Mrs. Williams looking vibrant and very much in love.  Concentrate, Bola! She chided herself. This was no time to get carried away by photos. You are here for expensive jewelry, not useless photos.

Bola headed straight to the big three-drawer mini-cupboard below a giant mirror by the bed. She was sure she would find what she wanted there. And when she opened the first drawer, she was right. The amount of Jewelry there was something she had never seen before. And they all sparkled and looked beautiful. Bola became confused. She did not know which to pick. Truth was the jewelry was so much that she was sure Mrs. Williams would not notice if anything got missing. Why would she keep so much jewelry in the house without locking her door? Did she trust her house-helps enough not to steal from her? What kind of silly trust was that?

She picked up one long neck chain and chuckled at how it sparkled in the light. So this was what it looked like to be rich? To have so many accessories and not be able to wear some of them in your lifetime. She dug her hand further into the drawer and her hand hit something hard at the bottom. When she searched for it and brought it out, she was shocked at what she saw. It was a wedding ring that had little diamond crusts around it and with a sparkling one at the top. This would definitely cost a lot of money. Bola could hardly breathe at her discovery. The fact that it was below the heap of jewelry showed Mrs. Williams did not need it and might not even notice its absence. How perfect!

But this is wrong, Bola! You shouldn’t do this.

I don’t have a choice.

You do. You can choose to confide in Mrs. Williams.

If I do, Baba will be killed. I cannot risk that. It’s just a ring that she doesn’t wear anymore. At least, I am not harming her.

You are stealing from her and betraying her. That is harm enough.

Bola shut her eyes against the guilt crawling up her skin. She was betraying the woman who had sacrificed a lot for her, throwing her only chance at a good life into the wind. She slid the ring into her finger and it fit perfectly as if it belonged to her. Bola wondered if she would ever get anything this lovely and expensive as a wedding ring. Or if she would ever get a ring at all. This ring could be Mrs. Williams’ most treasured item. This was a mistake. She shouldn’t be doing this.

Your father will die if you don’t.

But it is wrong. I cannot steal from her.

Mtschew! Like she will know. Look at the amount of jewelry she has. She will never realize the ring is missing.

But it is her wedding ring.

And it is your father’s life at stake. Can you live with the thought that you could have saved him but you did not? That it was your negligence that killed him?

No, I cannot allow Baba die because of me. She hid the ring in her pocket and carefully sneaked out of the room. As she quietly closed the door after her, she sighed sorrowfully. The deed was done and there was no turning back.

 

********************************************

10.15pm

George rolled from one edge of the bed to the other in agitation. Today had not gone too well for him. He had woken up with a slight headache, had hit another car on his way to work, had received written query from the Director when he arrived later than usual, had failed to submit the proposal that was long overdue and received another query for that, but top of all, had been bugged relentlessly by annoying phone calls from his mother-in-law. It was as if the more he was determined not to pick her calls, the more resilient she was to talk to him. It was not like he did not want to talk to her, he just did not know how to start explaining where things went wrong. The fact was things went wrong from the beginning, from the moment he refused to tell his wife the truth about himself. And it kept getting worse with every passing day of silence.

His phone rang again and he grumbled when he saw it was the same person calling. Maybe he should just pick the call so she could let him be. He picked the call. “Good evening, ma.”

“George, why are you doing this to me?” Mama headed straight into the hard talk. “What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment you are giving my daughter?”

“Mama, if you can just listen to me…”

“You sent her packing out of her matrimonial home because of something that is no fault of hers.” Mrs. Adesuwa spoke amidst tears.

That caught George’s attention and he sat up in bed. “What do you mean?” Did she know about his problem?

“You brought another woman into the home my daughter built with her life all these years. Tell me, George, is that fair? All because she could not bear you children.”

“I made a mistake, no doubt, and I have rectified it. I sent the woman packing out of my house and wanted Pauline back.” George replied, the hurt boiling in his heart. “Only for me to get to the hospital, thinking I could beg my wife to come back, just to find her all cuddled up in the arms of another man.”

“Another man?” Mrs. Adesuwa sounded lost. “Which man?”

“Oh! I see she hasn’t told you of her new boyfriend.”

“Pauline has been dedicated to you all her life. She would never cheat on you.”

“You think so?” George scorned bitterly. “Why don’t you go ask her yourself? Of course, she may lie to you the way she has been lying to me.”

“I know my girl. She can never do such a thing. She can be stubborn sometimes, but she will never cheat on you. It was you who cheated on her by bringing another woman into your house.” Mrs. Adesuwa was insistent. “And you should come over to my place to apologise to her right away.”

George gave a mocking chortle. “Apologise fire! I am not coming down to Abeokuta to settle issues between myself and her in her parent’s house. No way! Tell your daughter to come back to Lagos and we shall settle things under my own roof.”

“It may not be as easy as you make it sound.”

“What do you mean?”

“I heard her talking over the phone to a lawyer. She was asking about the divorce process, George. Pauline is really frustrated right now and when she is like this, she takes some foolish steps. This is why I have been calling you. To try to convince you to come down so we can settle this issue once and for all.”

Ehn…. So she is working on getting a divorce?” George felt some sourness on his tongue. “She can go ahead. Our marriage was a mistake from the start anyway. I should not have married her. I made the greatest mistake of my life eight years ago when I took her to the altar.”

“Don’t say that…”

“I will say it over and over again. She did not love me at all. She was only pretending. That is why she has been making sure she does not get pregnant.”

“Ha! George, don’t say that. My daughter really wants to be pregnant, to build a family with you. But…” Her voice trailed away. “Never mind.”

“But what?” George jumped off his bed. “Is there something I should know?”

Mrs. Adesuwa sighed sadly and her voice went a notch lower. “There is something you should know George, something that happened to your wife some years back.” She sniffed as sorrow overwhelmed her. “Promise me you will never tell her I told you. But I just feel that as her husband, you have every right to know and I hope this will make you change your mind about the whole thing and come for your wife.”

It was moments like this that made George uncomfortable. He had a gut feeling he would not like what she was about to tell him. “I am listening.”

For the next five minutes, George listened to the terrifying trauma that happened to Pauline nine years ago and with every word, his heart sank deeper. Why didn’t she ever tell him about this? To think that they lived as husband and wife for eight years and she kept such a deep secret from him? Knowing this before now would have changed everything… How was she able to live with such pain without letting him be a part of it? He could hardly blame her because he, himself, was guilty of same. He had never told his wife that he would never be able to have children either, that his sperm count was so low that the doctor had said only a miracle could change that. And he had got married, hoping the miracle would happen. He had got married sterile to a woman who would never be able to bear children, which was no fault of hers. Why had they not been truthful to each other from the start? Being sincere and open would have rid them of all the years of pain and rejection they had suffered together. What a loss!

“So that is why she cannot give birth.” Mrs. Adesuwa concluded amidst tears. “My daughter lost her womb to that incident.”

“Who are you talking to, Mama?”

Mrs. Adesuwa turned slowly to see her daughter standing behind her in the shadows of the late evening.

“Who are you talking to about me?” Pauline asked in anger, fear clear on her face. “Is it George you are talking with? Have you spilled my life to him?”

Mrs. Adesuwa tried to hold her daughter. “Pauline, it is not what you think.”

“Did you tell him I cannot bear children, that my womb is destroyed and that is why he doesn’t have a child?” Pauline stepped back in fury and scared she could do something really bad to her mother. “Did you tell him what happened to me that fateful night and does he hate me more now more than ever?” She burst into uncontrollable tears as she turned and walked away.

“Pauline, wait!” Her mother ran after her.

“Leave me alone!” Pauline cried out. “You have hurt me greatly, Mama, and right now, I really don’t know the difference between you and George. I don’t ever want to see the both of you again!” She stormed back into the house.

“What is happening here?” Her father stood in the door way, wondering what the noise was all about.

Pauline ran past him without saying a word. When he saw his wife and the phone in her hand, he took a guess. “You have spilled the beans to her husband, haven’t you?”

His wife looked like she had just been caught stealing.

He condemned her outright. “You this woman! Didn’t I tell you to leave them alone? But your chatty mouth will not. Now you have destroyed everything. Now hand over that phone to me!”

His wife took some steps towards him and handed over the phone without objection.

He took a look at the phone and found out the ongoing call was still on. “Hello, George. Are you there?”

A disenchanted George spoke into the phone. “Yes… Yes sir.”

“I don’t have much to say to you as I see that my wife has done that for me. But this I have to say to you. Stop being wimpy and be a man. Whatever happens after now is in your court. If you love your wife in spite of what you have been told, then come and get her. If not, then stay away, but I promise you that if any further hurt comes to my daughter, this earth will not be able to contain you and I.” He cut the call.

George trembled intensely as he ruminated over what just happened. He fell on the bed and took deep breaths. He knew what to do. First thing tomorrow, he would travel to Abeokuta. He would bring his wife back home and they would talk. They would talk and be open to each other for once in their marriage. And they would start again. Things would take a new turn. They would try to build what they had crashed. Together. As it should have been from the beginning.

 

TRIANGULAR (13)

It’s still a New Year…. Make plans to make the right choices as you stick with us for thrilling stories and articles. WATCHOUT…. !!! Monday holds a surprise.

If you missed the last episode please click here.

 

 

TUESDAY, 15TH JULY 2014

9.00am

“Pauline, please open the door. I beg you in the name of God.” Mrs. Adesuwa stood outside Pauline’s bedroom, carrying a tray of food. “You have locked yourself up since you arrived yesterday and have not eaten anything. Do you want to die in my house?”

There was no response.

She turned to her husband who was eating his food and watching the television. “Come and help me talk to your daughter, please. Maybe she will listen to you. I cannot bear that she has not eaten since yesterday.”

Her husband glanced at her. “When she is hungry, she will come out.”

“You cannot just say that. You have to tell her to come out and eat now. She needs to eat. It has been twenty four hours now.” The disillusioned mother dropped the tray and sat down beside her husband of thirty five years. “Have you tried to call her husband? He has not been picking my own calls o! That foolish boy will regret doing this to my daughter.”

Her husband kept eating without saying a word.

Mrs. Adesuwa was agitated already, but the way her husband sometimes ignored her made her really annoyed. And sometimes she found it hard not to react. “Oko mi, I am talking to you now. Why do you always do as if I do not exist? As if what I say is nonsense.”

Her husband, obviously fed up, jumped to his feet. “This woman, what else do you want me to do? Should I go and break the door down, drag Pauline out and force the food into her mouth? You already said her husband did not pick your calls. Should I travel down to Lagos and drag him here so you can beat him up?”

“That is not how I mean it.”

“Then how else do you mean it?” He shouted at her, very tired of her troubles. “If Pauline had listened to me from the start, we will not be having this problem today. Sometimes when we old people speak, the young ones think we are foolish. When problems now arise because of their own foolishness, they start running back to us for help. Let her remain there and not eat. Like I said, when the hunger has nearly killed her, she will come out.” He sat down and continued eating his food.

Mrs. Adesuwa sighed sadly. It was clear her husband was not going to render any emotional support. She stood up and walked towards the bedroom again. “Pauline. Please answer me.”

“Mama, please leave me alone.” The voice on the other side of the door was clear but sounded weak.

“But you have not eaten since yesterday.”

“I am not hungry.”

“Okay. Just open the door and let me in. I even have some fresh clothes for you. You should change from that one on you.”

There was a bit of silence before the lock turned. Mrs. Adesuwa quickly picked up the clean clothes she had placed earlier beside the door. When she saw the state of her daughter, she almost cried. “Ah! Omo mi!

“I am fine, Mama. Just give me the clothes.”

“But you don’t look fine. Maybe you should clean up and come outside for some fresh air. I also cooked your favourite food. See.” She pointed at the tray. “Yam and egg.”

Pauline looked at her mother, pitying her. The woman was trying all she could to make her feel better, but right now, nothing, no one could change what had happened. “Thank you for your effort.” She saw her father eating and ignoring them. “Good morning, Papa.”

“You are supposed to be greeting your husband this morning, not me.” He said in low tone, but clear enough for everyone not to ignore the sarcasm accompanying his words.

Her mother rose to her defense, speaking to her husband. “You are not helping the situation.”

“If you think I am going to pat and rub her back for her failed marriage, then you must be dreaming. She laid her bed. She must lie on it.”

Pauline could not say a word. She knew coming to her parent’s place would result to this. Her father would not stop letting her know how much it served her right to disobey him when she should have listened. She faced her mother, taking the clothes from her. “Thank you, Mama. Let me freshen up.”

“And eat too.” Her mother carried the tray and entered the room without seeking her permission.

“When you are done crying your eyes out, you will pick all you came with and return to your husband’s house where you should be.” Papa stared hard at his daughter. “You are not welcome under my roof.”

Pauline could not reply, stifling the tears in her throat as she closed her bedroom door. Why must Papa do that, make her sink lower than she already felt? This was the only place she could turn to, the only place she had thought she would find some comfort. And now, she was being turned away.

“Don’t mind your father. He is just being hard for no reason.” Her mother held her shoulders. “This place is your home too and you did nothing wrong coming here.” Her eyes strayed to her daughter’s scarred hands. “So, he and his new wife did this to you?”

“I don’t want to discuss this now, Mama.” Pauline started undressing.

“But you cannot hide from your troubles. We have to discuss and find a solution.”

“Not now, Mama, please.” The least thing Pauline needed now was her mother smothering her with possible solutions to a problem that could never be solved. Her marriage was over! Couldn’t Mama just understand that? Standing in only her underwear, Pauline handed her dirty clothes to her mother. “You should not waste your time bothering over what is lost.”

“But… but if only I can talk to your husband. He has not been picking my calls.”

“You have been trying whose number?” Pauline was furious. How could Mama do such a thing without her consent? “I didn’t ask you to. Do you want him to think I am begging him to take me back? He is the one that should be begging me instead. He is the one cheated!”

“But…”

“There is no but, Mama. I cannot even believe you would try calling him at all. Please leave me alone.”

Mama didn’t understand why her daughter would be angry at her. After all, she was only trying to help. “But I ….”

“Mama, I beg you in the name of God, leave me alone.” Pauline moved behind the door and opened it. “Go and meet your own husband and leave my life alone.”

Mama’s mouth was open wide in shock. What had she done to deserve this kind of treatment from Pauline? She moved towards the door with the dirty clothes in her hand. “A wise woman builds her own home, but the foolish pulls it down.”

“So now, I am foolish, abi? Please just leave. I see my coming down here is a mistake.”

As Mama got to the door, she stopped, looking very remorseful. “I didn’t mean it that way, ma binu. No marriage is perfect, child. I have been in it for almost forty years now and I can authoritatively say marriage is not an easy journey. Do you know how many times I thought of leaving your father?”

“So, what kept you waiting all these years then?” Pauline asked, getting impatient with this unnecessary talk.

Mama stared into her daughter’s eyes. “You.”

“What!”

“The time I would have left was when that terrible incident happened to you. I could not add to the problem already plaguing our family. So I chose to say. Because of you. You needed me more than ever and I needed to put you first before myself.” Mama sighed deeply. “Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret my decision. But sometimes, things happen in our lives that will require us to make some hard decisions. Decisions like staying back to fight for what is yours.”

Her words sliced through Pauline’s heart like an arrow. Staying back to fight for what was hers? Was there anything left in her marriage to George that she really wanted to stay back and fight for? There was no child to bind them together. George did not even love her anymore, and she doubted if she did love him like before, but this same man had sounded very remorseful on the phone and had come to look for her in the hospital. Didn’t that count for something? That perhaps he wanted to make amends? She shook her head. No, he did not come to make amends, because if he did, he would have been patient enough to have waited for an explanation when he found her in another man’s arms. Instead, he had stormed out like an angry bull and told her never to return home. There was nothing for her to fight for.

“Thank you, Mama, for staying back for me.” Pauline tried to close the door. “But because it worked for you does not mean it will work for me.”

Mama just shook her head with pity displaced across her face as she stepped out of the room. As soon as she stepped out, Pauline dashed straight for her phone. She sat on the bed and scrolled down her contact list to a number she had collected from one of her colleagues in the office some months ago. She dialed the number and waited for the caller to pick.

“Good morning, please am I on to Mr. Stephen?”

The picker responded.

Pauline’s hand trembled lightly. “I understand your firm deals extensively with divorce matters. Please can you explain to me how I can start the process?”

Pauline’s heart beat faster as she listened carefully to the lawyer, each word sounding like a death sentence. “Okay, how soon can I sign the forms?”

 

*************************************

9:30am – Lola Williams’ Office

 

“So once we are able to reach our target audience effectively with this social media campaign, the other parts will be a walk in the park.” The young Marketing Executive, looking immaculate in his navy blue suit, looked round the room checking for approval on the faces on the Committee members. He especially was interested in one face – that of the Director of the Company.

Mrs. Lola Williams snapped out of her reverie when the sound of claps stormed her ears. She looked up to see the expectant face of the young Executive fixed on hers as if he was expecting her to clap as well. Quickly, she fixed a smile on her face and the man relaxed. Truth was she could not recall his presentation. He had hardly started before her attention drifted. Since last night, she had been trying to reach Charles, but he never picked, only for her to wake up this morning to get a text message from him stating he would call her within the hour. That was four hours ago and still no call. Maybe he was busy, she kept telling herself, but with every passing minute, she knew he may never call at all. Every time her phone blinked, she would nearly jump out of her skin, thinking it was her son only for her to be disappointed over and over again. She desperately needed to talk to him, to beg him to come home, to tell him of what she had been hiding from him, of the disease that could take her life if he chose to ignore her plea.

“So, what do you think, Ma? Do you like the overall campaign strategy?” Rose, her Personal Assistant and Secretary in the Committee, whispered into her ears. “I think it’s a very good one.”

“If you think so, Rose, then it must be.” Lola replied with a wave of her hand. As hard as she tried to hide her lack of enthusiasm, she couldn’t. There was a heavier matter on her mind right now. She stood up with a forced smile pasted across her face. “Good job everyone. Let’s take a break and have a final discussion tomorrow, okay?”

The group dispersed, leaving her and Rose in the Board Room.

“Are you okay, Ma? You look like your mind was far away throughout the meeting.” Rose asked kindly as she packed up all the paper work.

“I am fine, Rose. Thank you.” Lola replied sweetly.

Her phone rang and she nearly screamed when she saw who the caller was. She immediately instructed Rose curtly. “Can you excuse me, please? I need to take this call privately.”

Rose quickly packed what was left and hurried out of the room. If her boss just told her she was fine, the way she had reacted to that phone call proved otherwise.

Immediately Rose shut the door after her, Pauline clicked the green button. “Charles! Is this the ‘within the hour’ you promised?”

“Hi, Mum. Why the attack? I just got to the office now.” Charles did not sound pleased. “Why do you always make me feel like I make a mistake anytime I call you?”

“Anytime you call me? And who is supposed to be the one angry here? I have been calling you since yesterday and you refused to pick my calls.”

“I was on shift and had multiple surgeries to do. I didn’t even know where my phone was until this morning and the first thing I did when I located it was to send you a message.”

“Yes. That you would call me ‘within the hour.” Lola stressed the last three words emphatically.

“Well, I dozed off. I was very tired.”

“But why are you doing this to me, Charles?” Lola tried to hold back the tears.

“Doing what to you again? Mum, you know how terrible this place is, how I have to work tooth and nail to feed my family and the useless government. If I do not pick your calls does not mean that I intentionally did not want to pick, but that I am busy to even notice the phone ring.”

“But that’s terrible! That isn’t even a life. If you had listened to your father and I about your taking over the family business, maybe you would not have to work this hard to have a good life.”

“Oh! Drop this, Mum! Is this what your calling me is all about? To try again to convince me to give up my own dreams and continue my father’s?”

Lola cleared her throat. “Well, that is part of it.”

“Well, that one will not work and if the other part is to beg me to come home so you can see my face, I am sorry that may not work again. At least for now.”

Lola was confused. “But… but you said you would come home next month.”

“Well, I tried to work on my schedule, but I found out that my coming home next month may not be as possible as I thought. I discovered there are some major surgeries that have been booked next month and the people are relying on me. I cannot disappoint them.”

“But you can disappoint your mother?” Lola was disillusioned as she paced from one end of the room to the other. “I guess your mother isn’t as important as your patients then.”

“Don’t play with my emotions, Mum. You know how much you are important to me and how much I love you.”

“Then prove it.”

“Yes, I will. That is why I have called Aunty Ope to come and stay with you for a while.”

“You called your father’s younger sister to come and stay with me?” Lola hit hard on the wall with her bare hand. “Is she my son? And did I tell you I do not have enough capable hands to take care of me?”

“Those capable hands are not family. Aunty Ope is family. She will take my place till I visit. I trust her.”

Lola clamped her lips together, shutting off the lethal words that were at the tip of her tongue. How dared he call her in-law into this matter? She asked him for proof of his love for her and this was the best he could do? “Just as you called your Aunt the first time, you will call her again and tell her not to step a foot into my house, you hear me? I don’t want to see her in any radius of the house.”

“I don’t get you, Mum. You ask for attention and I am giving it to you. Still you are not satisfied. What else do you want from me?”

Lola could not keep the tears back anymore. They spilled down her face without control. “Never mind, Charles.”

“I hate it when you get this way.”

There was a moment of silence on both ends of the line as each tried to make some sense out of the jumble.

After over a minute, Charles spoke. “Mum, are you still there?”

“One of your kidneys.”

“What! I don’t understand.”

“You asked me what else I wanted from you. Can I at least get a kidney since I cannot get your heart?”

Charles burst into a bout of laughter. “You really are funny, mum. The way you weave our talk makes me laugh. I see why dad couldn’t do without you. You have a great sense of humour. Can I call you back later in the day? Something just came up.”

Lola cut the call abruptly, angry that her son would make mockery of her request. How more insensitive could he be? She laid her back against the world, breathing in and out deeply and fighting the pains of rejection she had just received from her own flesh and blood. She scrolled through her phone looking for the details of her lawyer. Once she got it, she dialed his number. It was time she did another amendment to her Will.

 

 

*******************************************

1.05pm

“I cannot take care of it. It is your problem.” A woman clad in a neck plunging blouse and skirt that did nothing to cover her nakedness held out a baby wrapped in a filthy cloth.

“You call the baby ‘it’ like she is not a human being?” A man looking very unkempt and disorganized at the news replied.

“If you had used a condom like every normal person, this would not have happened. I have done my part for nine months. It is your turn to do yours. I cannot even give her the life she deserves.”

“How am I sure she is even my child, considering your line of business? She can as well be hundreds of other men’s.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! She is your child. I got pregnant after I slept with you!” The woman dropped the baby carelessly on the bare floor. The baby started crying and she stepped further away from it. “She is your problem now. Don’t call me because you will not find me. I am leaving Lagos and not coming back. I don’t care what you do with her. She is none of my business.” She turned and started walking away.

“Wait, Lorita!” The man chased her. “Where do you think you are going? Come back here, now!”

The cry of the baby became louder and the man had to stop chasing and walked back to the baby. She looked very dirty like she had not been bathed for days. He bent down and picked her and she wailed even more, the splitting sound causing some ache in his head.

“You little imp!” He spat on the child. “You have come to make my life a living hell. You will regret this.”

As if on cue, the baby cried the more and the man thought about leaving her on the lonely, dark road to die. The slut had claimed the baby was his, but he knew that was one in a thousand chances.

“I will keep you for one day. Just one day. And if I find you are more of a trouble than you are already, then I will kill you myself.” He placed the baby on his left shoulder and walked down the street, hoping no one had seen the exchange and regretting ever walking into an hotel ten months ago and meeting the baby’s mother. The woman whom he would never see again.

“Aunty Bola!”

Bola’s eyes shot open at the voice. She had been having the usual dream she always had. The dream about her mother and how the woman had left her with Baba. Though she was not sure exactly how it happened, but she had pictured it over and over on her mind that it began to look real and had begun to dream about it too. Sometimes she wondered if her mother ever regretted that decision, if she missed her little girl and would ever want to return into her life again. She had said in the dream she would never return. And for many years Bola had waited for her. She never did return. She never would.

“Aunty Bola! You have a call.” Tomiwa handed the ringing phone over to her.

Bola sat up straight on the balcony where she had spent most of the morning, thinking about her life before she eventually fell asleep. “Who is it?” She asked.

“I don’t know.” Tomiwa replied and didn’t wait for more questions before he dashed from the balcony back into living room.

Bola looked at the details and was a bit afraid when she saw ‘no number’. She placed the phone against her ear. “Hello.”

There was a heavy breathing on the other line. “So you think you can just walk away and go scot free, right?”

“Excuse me? Who are you?”

“Your unfinished business.”

Bola tried to stand on her feet. “I don’t know you. Who are you?”

“I sent you to deliver a package and you mess everything up for me. Worse still, you have the police chasing me up and down. You are a fool, girl and you will pay for it.”

Bola stammered, fear completely overtaking her. “Bo…. Bo… Bosco?”

The man laughed sarcastically. “You mean the Bosco you put in the police cell? No, I am not Bosco. I am his boss.”

“Chair… Chairman?”

“Well, some people call me that.”

“What do you want from me?” Bola’s voice trembled. What would this man want with her? She had only met him once at the party Bosco had dragged her to and was not even aware he was also involved in the drug deal. Bosco never mentioned him.

“This isn’t just about what I want from you, but also what you need from me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My contact told me you were taken into the house of a rich woman, in fact, one of the wealthiest families in the country. Am I right?”

How did he know that? Bola could not imagine how he got to know. “I don’t care what your contact told you. What are you calling me?”

“That means I am right.” The man spoke slowly as if he was in no hurry to end the call. “You see you have something I want and I have something you need.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have anything with you!” Bola yelled into the phone.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Please leave me alone and don’t call me again!”

“Why don’t you stay calm and listen to what I have to offer.”

“You don’t have anything to offer me. In fact, you are disturbing me right now.”

“Really? How about I tell you that I have your father with me and will kill him right now if you do not do what I need you to do.”

“What!” Everything stood still for Bola. “What… what are you saying?”

“Your stupid father has been captured by my men and is here with me. I will kill him unless you do what I say.”

“You are lying! My father is not with you. Your threat is not going to work.”

“You took what I wanted. Do you know how much that drug exchange would have brought me? Nothing less than N30millin. You hear me, N30million! And you messed everything up for me. If you ever want to see your father again, here is what you will do.”

Bola could hardly concentrate. “I don’t believe you. My father is safe away from you.”

“You think so? Why don’t you speak to him then?”

Bola could hear her heartbeat in her ears. This was not happening at all. To think that when her life was beginning to have a meaning, something like this would come up.

“Bola! Bola!” It was unmistakably Baba’s voice. “I don’t know these men. They just came to pick me up this morning at the beer parlour. Please do whatever they tell you to do. They said they will kill me. Please I don’t want to die.” Baba started crying. “Please…”His voice trailed away.

“You heard him, didn’t you and is he your father or not?” His captor smirked into the phone. “Now, this is what I want you to do if you ever want to see your father again. You hear me??”

Bola visibly trembled as she took in his words one after the other. The sheltered world she thought she finally had began to crumble one brick after the other until everything turned into sinking sand. She clamped her hand over her mouth to shut the shriek at the tip of her tongue. Why would the world turn against her again? Would she ever be free of her dark past? Bitter tears rolled down her cheeks. No, it appeared she would never be free. She would forever be haunted like a fugitive. And after what she had been asked to do, she was afraid she could be more. A fugitive and worse, a traitor to those who she had begun to love.

TRIANGULAR (11&12)

Happy New Year

Wishing You and You and You a wonderful year. Every good thing will come because God has got your back. Thank you for being with REDigion through 2014 and we promise you a better ride in 2015 as we launch into new horizons, God helping us. Tell everyone you know about this space as we work on making your reading and spiritual experience even better. Today, we have two episodes jammed into one post to celebrate the start of the year. Be Blessed with TRIANGULAR, 11th and 12th episode!

MONDAY, 14TH JULY 2014

5.00am – Duro Soleye Hospital, Ikeja

“Hello, Mama.”

“Hello, Pauline.” Mrs. Adesuwa rolled on her bed, trying to fight off the sleep in her eyes. “Why are you calling me at this time?” She yawned. “It’s very early in the morning. Is everything okay?”

There was a muffled sound on the line. “Which sounds okay to you, Mama? Is it the fact that I am out of my matrimonial home or that my life is over and I feel like committing suicide?

Mrs. Adesuwa jumped out of bed, startled. “What do you mean? Don’t make me afraid, Pauline! What sort of rubbish are you saying this morning?”

“You heard me, Mama! George has driven me out of the house and…”

“What! I was still with you yesterday morning and everything looked okay. You told me everything was okay!”

“I lied.” Pauline started crying profusely. “Everything that happened was a lie. The lady you saw leaving for the market is the woman who has taken over my home. George sent me parking out of the house because that husband snatcher got pregnant for him.”

“But why didn’t you tell me this?” Mrs. Adesuwa sounded exasperated.

“Because I didn’t want to make you feel sad. You have always believed in me and I didn’t want to disappoint you. I so much wanted to tell you, but you were concerned about other things.”

“You cannot blame me for being concerned about other things when I was led to believe all was well. Your husband even kissed you in front of me!”

Pauline sniffed hard. “Well, all isn’t. And it is mostly my fault. If I had been able to give him at least a child, this would not be happening.”

Mrs. Adesuwa sighed sorrowfully. She could not swallow everything her daughter was spilling out to her. “You cannot blame yourself. What happened to you back then could have happened to anyone. Our mistake was in deciding you should not tell your husband.”

“Yes.” Pauline groaned. “I wish I had told him, but would that have changed anything? Wouldn’t it have made him hate me, detest me and blame me for not giving him a child?”

“Perhaps and perhaps not. We cannot tell right now. Tell me, where are you now?”

“I had a minor accident and spent the night at the hospital.”

“What minor accident is that?” Mrs. Adesuwa sounded angry. “Did he raise his hands on you?”

“Not him, mother. She did.”

“That girl touched you?” Mama jumped out of bed. “And your husband didn’t do anything about it? I am coming over to Lagos right now.”

“No, don’t come. There is nothing you can do anymore. This battle is lost.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I am coming home, Mum. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I need a place I can think about my life and maybe pick up the pieces and try to start again.”

“You know this place is always open to you. Your father and I love you, Pauline.” Mrs. Adesuwa was almost crying.

“I know and I need all the support you can give me now.”

“We are here for you. Come home, baby.”

“I will be there by 9.00am. Cook something good.” Pauline cut the call.

Mrs. Adesuwa fell back on the bed, her heart heavy with sorrow.

“Was that Pauline?” The voice was deep and strong.

She turned to see her husband, whose eyes were wide opened and had been listening to her side of the conversation. “Yes. Something bad has happened.”

“I know what it is. I heard your discussion. So, she is coming here today to do what?” His voice became a bit hard.

“She needs a place where she can think. Plus, I need to see my daughter again.”

“If she had listened to us in the first place, she would not have married that fool!”

Oko mi, don’t say that. She was in love with him.”

“Love? Where has that got her to do with raising a family? And how is that going to solve her problem? She put herself into this in the first place. She should solve it herself.”

“But we are her parents and should provide support for her.” Mrs. Adesuwa defended her daughter. “She needs us now more than ever.”

“Well, if she comes here to cry, I will not tell her how sorry I am. What has happened has happened. What she needs is someone that will spank her and talk some sense into her head.” Her husband insisted, rising up from the bed. “And it is obvious who that person is between us.” He walked out of the room, muttering some angry words under his breath.

Mrs. Adesuwa heaved a deep sigh. She was not happy at how things had turned for her daughter, neither was she impressed with the way her husband was handling the issue. If there was anything Pauline needed now, it was support from them and her father had shown he was not interested in offering that. The next days would be very tough for her family and she had better found a way of balancing things up before they exploded even more.

*****************************************

8.30am – George’s Office

George could hardly concentrate on the Management meeting which started thirty minutes ago. His mind was far away, lost in grief about recent events. He had not only lost his wife, but also any chance he could have at getting her back. His heart was completely broken when he had found her looking so happy in the arms of another man. Every hope of rebuilding his family had come crashing down right before his eyes. And last night, in the loneliness of his room, he had done what he had not done in years. He had cried and wished his wife back. He had even gone to her room and saw the wedding ring with which he had vowed his life to her on the floor, disfigured and a stark reminder of how much of a failure he was. All the years they spent together, he had poured all the blame on her, made her feel like a disappointment, when in fact, he was the one to blame. He was the cause of all that had happened. He was the reason they could not have a child. And he had hid it from her.

His phone rang suddenly and when he saw it was his mother on the line, he excused himself from the meeting and headed for the closest restroom.

Nwoke, What did I hear you have done?” His mother blurted out even before he could say a word.

“Kedu, Mama.” Once he was sure he was alone, he spat into the phone. “You heard what you heard, Mama.”

“How can you throw Nneka and your baby out of the house and go after that… that witch you call a wife?”

“My baby? We both know the baby is not mine, Mother! Let’s stop this pretense. The plan didn’t work.”

“And you are to blame for that.” His mother fumed over the phone. “The plan was working just fine until your stupid mother-in-law decided to pay you a visit. She must have come with strong juju. But it will fail. She and her daughter will suffer the wrath of the gods by the time I am done with them.”

“You will not do anything more, Mama. You hear me?” George yelled into the phone. “This was your fault from the beginning. If you had kept your mouth out of my family’s affairs, maybe things would not have gone as bad as this.”

“You are my son and your family is my business. It is because you could not take any initiative all these years that I had to come up with mine. And Nneka was not a bad option. Her pregnancy was still in its early stage, so no one would have known the pregnancy was not yours. I did you a favour, Nwoke, trying to make you a man and cover up your shame. But see what you have done now. You are such an ungrateful child.”

George exhaled sharply. “Good for you then. At least, now you know your plan has foiled. My shame is mine alone to carry. I don’t need you to do that for me anymore.”

“Useless child. I just thank God you are not the only son I have and your elder brothers have children or else the world would have turned me into a laughing stock, calling me the mother of infertile men.”

“Enough, Mother! You do not have to rub my problem on my face!” George could no longer control his anger. “I may be the infertile one of your children, but I am the only one who takes care of you.”

“So you think your sending me money every week will replace my desire to see my grandchildren before I die? Tufiakwa! You can hold on to your money. Money that has not given you children.”

George took in deep breaths, trying to calm his raging nerves. “”Goodbye, Mama and please don’t call me again on this issue.”

“I will not because talking to you is a waste of time. When you are ready to take Nneka back and raise that child as yours, you will call to beg me. Foolish child!” Mama cut the call, leaving a trail of venom.

George rested his head on the door. He was tired of everything. The Pretense, the lies and everything in-between. When his mother had called him some weeks back and suggested the whole drama with Nneka, he had not agreed with her at first, but her persistent calls and overbearing attitude had finally made him succumb. Pauline’s nonchalant attitude hadn’t helped either. Every day, a new row of bricks was added to the wall of separation that was between them and he had begun to think she was seeing another man secretly. He had actually agreed to Mama’s plan just to see how Pauline would react, to see if she still had any feelings at all for him. But he had been disappointed. She withdrew further into her shell as if nothing about him mattered to her any more. Only a woman who had other plans would have reacted that way. And he was confirmed right when he had found her in the arms of another man. The pain in his heart was too hard to bear. He was indeed infertile. Both in body and in life.

**********************************

9:15am – Mrs. Williams’ House, Ikoyi

Bola opened her eyes slowly and the first thing she saw was the decorated white ceiling above her. Where am I? She thought confoundedly. The floor on which she usually slept felt too soft and a fluffy white cloth covered her body. She turned her head and took in the flowery white curtain that screamed quality and a fresh scent from the white flower vase near her floated into her nostrils. Am I in heaven? If this is heaven, then I don’t want to leave.

The door to the room opened and a lady carrying a tray walked in. “Good morning, Bola.” She smiled as she carefully placed the tray on the table beside the bed.

“Am I in heaven?” Bola asked. “Are you an angel?”

The lady giggled. “No, I’m not, though I wish I were. My name is Dupe and I am Mrs. Williams’ house help.”

Mrs. Williams? Bola nearly jumped out of the bed as events of the past day came flooding in a rush. She had hardly put anything into her mouth before she passed out yesterday. And hadn’t she had the most relaxing rest of her life? She could not recall if she ever slept soundly like that in her entire life. She looked at her bandaged parts and anxiety crept back slowly into her head.

“Where is my brother?” She asked worriedly.

“He is downstairs watching TV. The nurse advised nobody should disturb you till you wake up. I just came in to check if you have and to drop this.” Dupe placed the tray on the reading table at the corner of the room. “You look worried. Don’t worry. You are safe here. Your brother told me everything that happened to you and my Madam will protect you from other bad people.”

Bola rubbed her neck, itching to know more about this guardian fate had sent into her life again. “This your Madam, who is she, really?”

“Mrs. Williams.”

“I know. I mean who is she? What does she do? Why is she risking her life to take care of me?”

“I am sure you know Chief Tobi Williams.”

“I don’t know who he is.”

Dupe’s eyes widened in shock. “You don’t know Chief Tobi Williams, owner of Emerson Communications, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in this country? He was a very popular man.”

“I know Emerson Communications. My phone is their network.” Then sudden realization dawned on Bola and she almost screamed. “What! Are you telling me she is his wife?”

“Yes, she is.”

Bola stood still for some seconds. She could not believe her ears… or her luck. Mrs. Williams, the woman who had put her life on hold to protect Bola, was one of the richest women in the country. No wonder she had always looked so affluent, even when she tried to hide it. Bola wanted the ground to open and swallow her. She wished she had been friendlier from the start, had not been an ingrate, had not allowed her pride to take over her. Now, trying to make amends would be very difficult, especially as she was guest to the woman she had once insulted. “I owe her an apology.”

“What for?” Dupe asked as she brought the tray to the bed. “Would you like some biscuits and milk now?”

“No thanks.” Bola tried to get off the bed, not minding the discomfort in her arm and leg. “I need to see Mrs. Williams. Where is she?”

“Well, I left her with your brother in the living room just outside the corridor. Oh! I almost forgot.” Dupe walked to a corner and brought out a pair of crutches. “These are for you. Madam got them for you. She thought you might need them to move around.”

How thoughtful of her, Bola was thankful. She owed the woman a bucketful of gratitude. She collected the crutches and with Dupe’s assistance, balanced on them. Then she hobbled slowly towards the door. Dupe moved to assist her.

“No, thank you.” Bola stopped her. “I am fine.” She walked through the door into a white corridor. It appeared everything in this house was painted white. The living room was the biggest she had ever seen and everything was white except a splash of red here and there. The television was on and she saw the tip of a little head resting on the big sofa.

“Tomiwa.”

The head turned and before she knew it, the boy threw away the pack of biscuits in his hands and rushed into her body.

“Aunt Bola!” He shouted with relief. “You are fine.”

Bola could hardly hold him with her hands holding on to the crutches. “Yes I am and I am glad you are too.” That he was alive and well was something she would always be thankful for. “I am sorry I have put you through a lot these past days. My bad decisions nearly cost us our lives. But you have been a brave boy.”

“I kept the paper you threw away. The paper that had her number. I knew that one day, we might need it. I am happy I kept the paper.”

“Yes, that was very smart of you.” Bola looked around the room for their host. “Where is Mrs. Williams?”

Tomiwa pointed to the balcony opposite them. “She went that way. She had a phone call and went outside to answer it. It looked like an important call. You know you should tell her ‘thank you’ this time for all she has done for us.”

“Yes, that is why I am looking for her. I want to show my gratitude.” Bola smiled at him. “You should go back to your TV.”

Tomiwa did not wait a moment longer. “Yes. I love this cartoon. It’s called Spongebob.” He picked up the pack of biscuit and settled in front of the TV.

“Good.” Bola saw she had lost his attention and found her way to the Balcony. When she opened the glass door, what she saw left her mouth wide open. The balcony was big enough for a party and had its own eating area. But what numbed Bola most was the big swimming pool just in front of it. The pool was beautiful and calm and had its own side bar as if it was another world on its own. It reminded Bola of the contrast in her life. Her life had been an ugly storm one after the other and she wondered if some peace had finally come for her.

A little sound distracted her and when she paid closer attention, she discovered it was someone crying. She traced the voice, walking closer to the railings and just in front of it sat Mrs. Williams crying softly into her phone.

“I don’t know what else to do, Dr. Aluko. I am just tired of everything.” Mrs. Williams wiped the tears off her face. “I have told you my son is not travelling down any time soon. Where else do you want me to get a kidney donor that is compatible? I urinated a lot of blood this morning and my feet are swollen like those of a pregnant woman. I’m scared, doctor. I’m really scared. If this kidney disease is what God wants to use to call me home, then I am ready.” She waited a few seconds before speaking again. “I am not being pessimistic. I am just realistic.” She muffled a cry as she listened to the doctor. “I will try to call him again and see maybe he will be more concerned this time. I know I do not have much time.” She exhaled roughly. “I promise to use my drugs. Thank you, Doctor. Bye for now.”

She cut the call and placed her head into her hands, weeping bitterly into them. After some minutes, she cleaned her face with the tip of her clothes, making sure she looked okay again. With some guests around, she dared not reveal her weak spot. Then she stood up and as she turned to go back into the house, she saw she was not alone.

“Oh, Bola! You are here.” She adjusted her top. “I hope you slept well.” Then she raised a curious eyebrow. “How long have you been standing there?”

Bola’s heart was torn at what she just saw and heard. “Just now.” She lied quickly to cover up. “I just got here now and yes, I slept well, Ma.”

“That’s good. Have you taken breakfast?” Lola smiled beautifully. No one would know she had just finished crying her heart out.

“No, I haven’t, but I will.” Bola replied, staring into her eyes. “I just came to tell you how grateful I am for your kindness. I know I have been rude to you and that was very bad of me. I am very sorry about that, Ma.”

Lola walked round to join Bola on the Balcony. “It’s okay, dear. I know you have had a pretty rough life and showing how tough you are is the way you deal with problems. But it won’t always work for you. Sometimes, you have got to show some weakness and allow someone help you. That way we learn to grow strong together.”

Bola nodded in agreement. “Yes, I get that now.”

“Let’s go eat breakfast.” Lola nodded towards the house. “Before it gets too cold.” She led the way into the living room, walking confidently as if everything was alright.

Bola followed her closely, somewhat confused at the turn of events. How could this woman who appeared to have everything anybody could ask for be in need of something everybody had? Nobody really had everything in this world. Everybody had one problem or the other which they tried to hide beneath the smiles. It was she who wore the shoe that knew where it pinched. No life was perfect, after all. Nobody, not even the rich, had it all.

******************************************

10.15am – Pauline’s Parent’s house, Abeokuta

When Pauline alighted from the cab that dropped her in front of her parent’s house, a powerful surge of nostalgia overwhelmed her. This was where she had spent all her childhood, had grown up into a well-trained lady her parents had been proud of. In fact, it was from here she got married. In a trance, she saw herself walk out of the house in a beautiful white wedding gown looking like a fairy princess and surrounded by cheery friends and families who had come to wish her well before leaving for the church service. She had been the happiest lady on earth that day. It had been a dream come true. She had overcome the hatred and depression that had taken over her life after the rape incident and was now taking charge of her life. Her world was having a whole new meaning.

Now as she stood just opposite the house, she wished she could turn back the hands of time; wished she had seen into the future and decided against the wedding. Or even left George standing at the altar. She wished none of what she pictured on her mind never happened.

“Pauline? Is that you?”

Pauline snapped out of her thought and saw her mother running out of the bungalow house and across the street to welcome her.

Mrs. Adesuwa pulled her daughter into a tight embrace immediately she crossed the street. “Oh! My daughter.” She said, her voice tight with emotions. “Welcome, home. I have been expecting you.”

Pauline reluctantly placed an arm around her. “Thank you, Mama. But we both know I should not be here to disturb you with my problems.”

“Don’t say that. I am your mother and your problems are my problems.” Mrs. Adesuwa pulled out of the embrace, looking around. “Where is your load? Is this how you came?”

“Yes, Mama. The burden on my heart is enough load to carry.”

“Let’s go into the house.” The older woman held her daughter’s hand. “Your father is expecting you too. But I must warn that he is not pleased you are here.”

“Papa was never pleased with my marriage from the start, so I am not expecting him to welcome me with open arms.”

Pauline allowed herself to be guided by her mother across the street and into the house. As they stepped on the porch, they met her father waiting for them at the door of the house with a frank frown on his face. Pauline sighed. Her father had always been a no-nonsense man who always was fearless in speaking his mind.

“So anytime you have problems in your marital home, you start running back to your parent’s home, abi?” He snarled at her.

“Oko mi, please let her come in first before you start questioning her.” Her mother rose to her defence. “You should know she is not in a good state of mind right now.”

“This is my home and she is my daughter and I have the right to question her the way I want.” He turned his full glare on Pauline. “If your mother had returned home every time we had a problem, then you would have been born out of wedlock or even not born at all.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Mrs. Adesuwa focused on her daughter. “He is just angry at what is happening.” She pulled her daughter past her husband into the house. “Your old room is still empty after all these years. You can use it if you want.”

“It’s okay.” Pauline replied and she walked straight to the room, desperate to leave the living room before another battle of words began between her parents. “I will like some time alone, please.”

“Of course. Take your time.” Her mother responded. “You need all the rest you can get after all you have gone through.”

Pauline shut the door gently after her and once she was alone, she rested her back on the door and the tears she had been stifling came falling down.

If there was anything she would never have thought would happen, it would be coming back to her old room, the place she had spent many months of depression and had shut herself off from the world; the place she had thought she had escaped from. Now, she was back into it. She fell on her knees with her head bowed to the ground as the pains of all the years of a failed marriage came crashing down on her. She was stupid, very stupid to think she had overcome this anguish. No, that dreadful night would haunt her forever. This nightmare had come to stay.

*****************************

6.45pm – Lola Williams’ House, Ikoyi

“And what is this? I have never eaten this before.” Bola pointed at some leafy foods on the dining table. The three of them – she, Lola and little Tomiwa- had gathered to eat dinner and Bola had never seen so much food in one table. There were some she could recognize and many she couldn’t. So this was what rich people ate? She thought within herself.

“That’s lettuce. Very good source of vitamins.” Lola answered kindly without any trace of irritation. She had been enjoying herself actually. The way Bola had been asking questions before picking any item on the table had been hilarious to watch. The young woman reminded her of how she had reacted the first time Tobi had taken her to a restaurant.

“I don’t think I will like it.” Bola’s face was distorted with distaste.

“Why don’t you taste it first?”

Bola caught the glint in her host’s eyes and felt ashamed of herself. No doubt, she was making a mockery of herself here. And it was funny, even to herself. She laughed out loud. “Maybe tomorrow. I will give it a try tomorrow.”

Lola smiled in response. She liked the sound of the girl’s laughter. The more time they spent together, the more she saw different sides to the girl, as if there were many layers under which laid a beautiful butterfly. And Lola would like to see that butterfly fly. “It is one of the many wonderful foods God provided His children to give us very good health.”

Bola shifted uncomfortably. “You have talked about God many times today. You talk about Him as if He is present with you. But He isn’t.”

Lola smiled at the change of topic. “Oh! He is. He is omnipresent. He is here with us as we eat.”

Lola looked around at the table and smirked. “Then I must be blind or He hates me so much He doesn’t want me to see him.”

“God does not hate you. He is a God of love. Don’t you think it is because He loves you so much that he has brought us together again?”

That question dumbfounded Bola. Why would God love her at all? She had never acknowledged Him; never even believed He existed. Of course, if He did, why did He watch as she suffered all these years without lifting a finger? But today, here she was. Out of the streets. Delivered from death’s grip. With the promise of a better life in front of her. Maybe there was a God after all. And maybe she did underestimate Him.

When she did not reply, Lola continued. “Nothing ever happens without God allowing it. And maybe He allowed you to go through all you went through for a reason. You may not realize it now, but some day, you will. Can you pass me the lettuce, please?”

Bola picked up the bowl filled with the vegetable and as Lola collected it, their hands brushed and Bola felt a connection drawing her closer to the older woman. There was something about her that she could not explain. Was it in the way she spoke with such depth of wisdom or the way she acted with so much love that one could hardly find fault in her? Or the calm way she took life as if she was not fighting a life-threatening disease? Bola was simply in awe.

“Can I ask you something, Bola?” Lola took on a more serious expression. Something had been bothering her since yesterday when she had asked about her parents and the way Bola had snapped made her a bit concerned. “I hope you do not mind.”

Bola noticed the change in tone and became uneasy. “What is it, ma?”

Lola cleared her throat, turning her attention to Tomiwa, who was busy digging into his food. “Tomiwa, can you please excuse your sister and I? You can take your food to the living room but try not to stain the chairs, okay?”

Tomiwa nodded and picked up his plate and juice, eager to spend some time in front of the TV.

When they were alone, Lola spoke quietly. “Please don’t get offended at what I am about to ask. Yesterday when I asked after your parents, you were quick to put an end to the conversation. I am sorry your father kicked you out. Would you like to share with me what happened?”

Bola shut her eyes, fighting off the resistance building up within her. She had expected this would come up, but not this soon. “I… I… I do not really have a good relationship with Baba. He…um…” Bola could not continue.

“He touched you in ways a father shouldn’t?” Lola presumed.

Bola’s eyes met hers, confirming the assumption. “He tried to. But I ran away.”

Lola held the girl’s hands, squeezing them in a comforting way. “I am sorry that happened to you. But you should know you are not alone in this. I know of another young woman who suffered worse fate. Her father, whom she thought was the only one she could trust and would never bring any harm to her, turned against her on one tragic night and forcefully had his way with her. The shame that brought almost led her to commit suicide. And she almost did if not that God decided to come in just in time. It is what you make of your past that will decide your future.”

Bola wondered how she would have endured the shame and pain that would have come had Baba had his way with her. Perhaps, she would have attempted suicide too. And succeeded.

“And about your mother.” Lola continued. “I am sorry you lost her at Tomiwa’s birth.”

“Well, that was a lie I told you.” Bola tried not to make eye contact as shame consumed her. “Truth is I never met my mother. Father said she was a prostitute who got pregnant for him and he took me in because he pitied me. I never met her. I don’t know who she is. Same for Tomiwa. Actually, he is my half-brother. His mother was a prostitute too.”

“Really?” Lola caressed the girl’s hands. “I am sorry about that. How hard it must be for both of you growing up without your mothers.”

“Well, Tomiwa had a mother in me. I was not so lucky, but I survived.”

“And I am very proud of you.” Lola’s heart swelled with pride at what this girl had achieved with so little resources. She was such a tough survivor. “You know I may not be the kind of mother-figure you need. You once called me an old hag.” Lola winked playfully. “But I can act the part if you allow me.”

Bola’s mind almost exploded. The elderly host said she was proud of her. No one had ever been proud of her. And that made her feel important for the first time in her entire life. She started crying.

“Did I say something wrong?” Lola was confused.

“No, you didn’t.” Bola wiped the tears off her face. “I… I don’t know why you are treating me with such kindness. Sometimes I feel I do not deserve it. Actually, I don’t.”

“Actually, you do. Because you have faced difficult times does not mean you are not entitled to good times or deeds. And when such good times come, you should make the effort to enjoy them. Just think about my offer, okay?” Lola stood up from the table. “Don’t forget I didn’t say I wanted to be your mother. I only said I wanted to act like, if that would make you feel comfortable. I need to retire for the night now. It has been a pleasurable and stimulating conversation with you.”

Bola stood up in respect. “Thank you very much, Ma. I enjoyed every bit of it.”

“Me too.” Lola replied with a bright smile and left the table.

As she was about to finally leave the dining room, Bola stopped her.

“Wait.” Bola searched her eyes. “That young lady who got raped by her father in the story was you, wasn’t it?”

Lola did not reply. Instead she smiled again, this time very meaningfully before she turned and walked away.

Bola watched her leave with a singular thought on her mind. If this woman could overcome her terrible, past life, why can’t I?

TRIANGULAR (10)

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SUNDAY, JULY 13TH 2014

2.15pm

George was restless. As restless as a hungry lion. What happened this morning had set his body on a fire that would not quench. When he saw the way his wife’s body had peeled from the hot water and how she had writhed in pain, something within him snapped and a secret he had thought was buried had come haunting him. When Pauline had declared how much she hated him, her words had seared his heart, leaving a big hole that would never be filled. Truth was it was he that should have borne the scar. It was he that should have suffered all the years. It was he that should be asking for forgiveness. It was he that…

Dim, abeg come help me rub my back. You know say this belle no easy.” Nneka sat beside him on the double-couch.

George did not move an inch, his eyes staring into the empty space.

Nneka noticed his still expression. “Dim, you still dey angry with me? No be your fight I fight? That ogbanje no wan leave, so I use force push am out.” She moved closer to him, rubbing his chest. “Okay, no vex. But you suppose know say na my love for you and our pickin make me do am.”

George cast two cold eyes on her. “Our pickin?”

“Yes, our pickin. Abi you no want am again?” Nneka studied his expression and did not like what she saw.

George took her hands off him and stood up from the couch. “Don’t follow me.” He ordered as he walked to his bedroom.

Nneka was confused and wondered what it was she did wrong. She was trying to protect him from that foolish Pauline and now he looked like he was actually angry at what she did. Truth was when she came back and met them talking, she had been very scared and had acted out of fright. What would become of her if the man and his wife reconciled? She did not want to go back to the village and be called all sorts of names. And what about the baby? It was his, after all, wasn’t it? A little guilt sneered at her. You dey sure? You don forget your different escapades with Azuka and Obi?  She shook her head. No, this baby was George’s. She had it while with him, under his roof, and no matter what it would cost, she had every right to stay in this home. Her place was beside George now and if she had to repeat what she did this morning, she would do it with joy. No ogbanje would take her place.

George locked the door quietly behind him and headed straight for his cellphone on the bed. He needed to make a very important call, one he had been avoiding for a while now. He dialed the number and waited for the call to be picked.

“Hi, George. What’s up? Been a while.”

“There is trouble, Femi.” George was in no mood for nitty-gritty.

The person on the line took the cue. “What is it?”

“It’s Pauline.”

“What! Does she know?”

George released a frustrated sigh. “No. I haven’t told her.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“It’s the silence, Femi. I thought I had gone past this, but it has come back to haunt me.”

“You know I told you to tell her from the beginning, but you refused.”

“Well, it was better to keep quiet about it and save my marriage than speak up and destroy it.”

Femi could feel his friend’s disappointment across the phone. “Well, so what do you want me to do? Tell her for you? You know it isn’t my responsibility to do that. I am your doctor, not your mouth-piece.”

“You are making feel more terrible, Femi.”

“You should be. You better go and tell her now before it is completely late.”

“It is late already. Pauline moved out of the house. Actually, I sent her out of the house. Another woman lives with me now and she is pregnant.”

“What!” Femi sounded stunned. “You know that isn’t your baby, right?”

There was some silence on both ends. George staggered backwards and fell on the bed. The way Femi had plunged the truth at him had left him dazed.

“George, are you there?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I am sorry your marriage had come to this, but if you had listened to me and had told Pauline before now, perhaps, she would have been understanding. That woman loved you, George, but it is clear you took her love for granted. You are my friend and I must tell you the truth.”

“Oh God!” George felt like crying.

“That baby you think is yours isn’t. You have got to send that woman packing and bring your wife back.”

“That would not be easy.”

“Well, you should have thought about that before you sent Pauline out.” Femi sounded very serious. “God gave you an egg to protect, but you threw it on the floor that it broke and you know how hard it is to get spilled egg together, but it isn’t impossible. You can have a second chance.”

“Thank you, Femi. I’ve got to go and get my wife back.”

“Good. Guess my work is done.” Femi concluded before he cut the call.

George jumped off the bed and picked his car keys on the drawer. Then he dashed out of the room.

“Where you dey go?” Nneka came out of the kitchen with a cup of water in her hands.

“I am going to bring my wife back and before I return, make sure there is no trace of you in this house. If I return and find you around, ten buckets of hot water is the least you will suffer from.” He walked out the door and down the stairs hastily as fast as his legs could carry him. Femi had mentioned a second chance. Maybe he still had a shot at it. Maybe his wife would still forgive him if she still had a soft spot for him. He brought out his phone and dialed her number. He would gather what was left of the egg and make the best use of it. Give me a second chance, Jesus. Make my wife love me again.

********************************************

2.35pm

“Ola!” The name tore out of Pauline’s lips before she could realize it. “You are here!” She fought with all her willpower not to get out of the chair and jump into his arms.

Ola dropped the full paper bag in his arms, shocked at the bandaged arm. “I thought you said it was only a minor accident.” He moved closer to her, his face etched with worry. “What happened to you?” Then he noticed the tensed atmosphere in the hospital, the uniformed police officers who carried a man who looked half-dead and covered with blood out of the building. “What also happened here? There is a little crowd in front of the hospital too.”

Pauline stood up. “You won’t believe any of it, if I told you. Please let’s go inside.” She led him out of the reception to the room where she had been admitted. “I am just glad no life was lost. That man they carried out came into this place to kill a young girl just next door.”

“What! For what reason?”

“I don’t know the exact details, but what I picked up was that it involved drug business. I think the girl messed up the plan and the man was sent to kill her before she could expose the people involved.”

“What a mess!”

“Yes.” Pauline sat on the bed. “But it’s okay and I’m glad you are here.” Her eyes flew to the bag in his hands. “And you got something for me.”

Ola smiled. “Well, it was not really what I wanted to get, but it was the best I could lay my hands on.” He placed the bag on the bedside drawer and emptied the content.

“Beverages and drinks.” Pauline tried to hide her disappointment. What else did she expect? That was what a friend would bring his sick pal.

“Well, and I got this too.” Ola brought out the last item. It was a yellow rose inside a beautifully-designed get-well-soon card. “Just to make your day more cheery.”

Pauline collected the item with trembling hands. He got her a rose? That communicated something deeper than what she thought, even if it was just a yellow rose. “Thank… Thank you so much. I… I really appreciate this.” Her eyes caught his and they held for a minute, before she became uncomfortable and averted hers. “Thank you for your care, Ola.”

Ola closed his eyes for some seconds, trying to gain control of himself. Did he just feel some current pass between them? Did he just notice how her eyes went all soft and inviting as if she was communicating something to him? She had appreciated him for his kind gesture, but deep within himself he knew he wanted to do more, to be more. But Pauline had built a hard shell around herself, as if she did not want anyone close to her at all. Starting from when they met at the University, when he had been her fellowship’s pastor, to the time of the rape incident and especially after that, Pauline had made it clear by her actions she did not trust anyone anymore. And when he had tried to be close and develop a relationship with her, he had always met with a brick wall. So he had recoiled and always acted out the part of the fellowship pastor, and nothing more, though sometimes he had wished he could be more. But her cold attitude had driven him away, and the fear that she may not want to be more than he wanted her to be had kept him apart from her all these years, coupled with a conscious effort to forget about her and carry on with his new life. When he stumbled upon her picture on Facebook, he could not resist the urge to reach out to her again and the business trip was just perfect timing. So he had made the call he did not want to make and here he was. When he eventually met her again last Friday, the feelings he thought he had overcome had come flooding back. But as much as he tried to reach out, she still tried to hold back from him, as if she was protecting herself from him. She should, because his feelings for her was dangerous, not only to both of them, but also to their families. She had a happy family with two beautiful girls and an adoring husband and he… well, he had his own family too, though he hardly saw his kids after the divorce, no thanks to his wife having custody of them. He needed to get out of here before he said something silly.

“Where is your husband?” He found himself asking as he regained control. “I thought you mentioned he was around.”

Pauline didn’t know how to respond. “He… He…”

The door opened and Ezinne walked in with a phone in her hands. She handed the phone over to Pauline. “It’s your husband. He wants to speak to you. He is on his way.”

Ola stepped back, trying to hide the disillusionment raging his body. “I should leave.” He said with a forced smile.

“Wait!” Pauline raised her hand. “Just hold on a bit for me, please.”

The way she pleaded made Ola’s heart melt, but he knew waiting was not a good decision. “Okay, I will be outside.” He concluded before walking out the door.

Pauline placed the phone against her ear. “Yes.” She sounded as cold as ice.

“Pauline, I am so sorry.” George sounded very broken over the phone. “There is something I need to tell you urgently and I am on the way to the hospital. In fact, I am almost there. Please forgive me for what happened this morning.”

“There is no reason for you to come, George. And there is nothing you want to say that will change anything. Our marriage is over. You got what you have always wanted with another woman. Please I beg you, don’t come and create more trouble for me. Go back to your new wife.”

“It is not what you think. Pauline! It is…” The line cut, leaving George more frustrated. He increased the pace of the car. He needed to get to his wife before it was too late. She sounded like it was too late.

Pauline felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when she cut the call. Who did George think she was? That she would forgive him and forget the agonizing years in he made her life hell over a fake phone call? He must be kidding!

“That was the man you told me about, right?” Ezinne asked, pointing at the door. “He looks really cute, but we both know nothing can happen between you two.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you just spoke with your husband and I think he is coming to beg you. He sounded very sorry over the phone. I think you should give him a listening ear.”

“He never gave me a listening ear all these years. He doesn’t deserve mine.” Pauline disagreed. “You of all people knew what I went through. It is because of him I am in the hospital. I cannot believe you are taking his side, Ezinne.”

“I am not taking his side. I am just trying to find a solution.”

“Well, keep the solution to yourself.” Pauline walked towards the door. “I played the gullible wife for years. Today, I have outgrown that.”

“You are making a mistake, Pauline.” Ezinne advised. “That man out there has his own family too. You are emotionally distraught right now and are prone to take some actions you may regret later.”

“When you are married, Ezinne, or if you ever will, and you go through what I have gone through and survive, then you can have all the right in the world to advise me on how to solve my problems, okay?” Pauline opened the door and stormed out angrily.

Who was Ezinne to judge or advise her? Pauline thought furiously. Ezinne was her friend, not her counselor. It was she who wore the shoe that would know where it pinched. It was she who bore the scar of humiliation on her body. Funny how everyone usually had an opinion on other people’s matters, without minding theirs. Ezinne should get married first, before she was qualified to air her views on marriage matters. Pauline walked straight to the reception where Ola was waiting for her, as he should be. But what she saw when she arrived the room stopped her on her track.

Ola was chatting happily with the elderly woman as if they had known each other before. When he turned and saw her, he stretched his arms at her. “Come here, please Pauline. Let me introduce you to this wonderful woman here.”

Pauline walked slowly to them, her eyes never leaving the woman’s.

“Mrs. Williams, please meet Pauline, my good friend.” Ola introduced before he turned to Pauline. “Pauline, meet Mrs. Williams, my elementary school teacher over thirty years ago. Isn’t that amazing? She did not change much at all.”

Lola appeared calm as she stretched her hand for a handshake. When she felt the hands of the younger woman, she sensed some stiffness. “Nice to meet you again.”

Pauline muttered a rigid response, her eyes still on Mrs. Williams, and still wondering how this could have come to be. She never would have thought, in her wildest dreams, that Ola would know this woman, this woman who liked poking her nose in other people’s affairs. When she first saw the woman and her ‘goddaughter’ thief-girl, she knew they were trouble and had tried as much as possible not to cross their path. She had failed, falling into her arms like a pack of stick.

“I need to leave now, Mrs. Williams. It’s so good to run into you again.” Ola gave Lola a big hug.

“Good to know God has made you great, Ola. Don’t ever forget to serve Him more.” Lola patted his back.

Ola turned his attention to Pauline and was short of words for a second. He pulled her into a deep embrace, whispering aloud. “Take care of yourself, Pauline.”

Pauline relaxed into those strong, protective arms as if she belonged there. She had never felt safer, more loved at that moment. It was as if she should remain there, as if that was where she was meant to be. Her arms tightened around him and she could feel a tear trying to slip from her eyes.

“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”

The trio looked at the entrance and saw a big man standing there, looking very angry as if he just witnessed something he hated to see.

“George!” Pauline drew out of the embrace.

“You better start explaining to me what is going on here before I lose my temper permanently.” George walked into the reception, looking every bit like an irritated animal. He turned to face Ola, who looked very confused. “What were you doing holding my wife in your arms like that?”

“You are her husband?” Ola pulled back.

“It isn’t what you think, George.” Pauline tried to defend them.

George looked like he just got a blow to his heart. “I cannot believe what I just saw. I thought I was coming here to get another chance with you. I didn’t know I was coming here to get a broken heart, to see you in the arms of another man.” He spat at Pauline. “I was right all along. You are guilty of adultery, you love another man.” He shook his head pitifully. “No wonder you were eager to make me not to come here. You could not wait to be with your boyfriend.”

“You know that is not true, George.” Pauline retorted at the top of her voice. “You sent me out of our matrimonial home, remember? You felt I was barren and got another woman who is now pregnant for you, remember? Your new wife poured hot water on me that got me into this hospital, remember?” Pauline pointed a finger at him. “You have no right to come here and accuse me of adultery when you yourself are guilty of same.”

“It’s okay!” That came from the elderly woman. Lola could not believe how things were turning out. “We can settle this elsewhere, not in an hospital.”

“But you told me you had kids. Mary and Martha you called them.” Ola asked Pauline. “You were lying to me?”

Pauline didn’t know what to say. She shook her head, words escaping her mind. Tears gathered in her eyes. “It is now what you think, Ola. Please let me explain.”

“No, there is no need.” Ola stepped away from her. “I don’t want to be part of this charade. He looked from one person to the other. “Excuse me, please.” He walked towards the exit and when he passed by George, he stopped. “And I am not her lover. Never has, never will.” He walked out of the hospital without a backward glance.”

“Don’t even think of coming back home.” George told Pauline. “We were a mistake from the start.” He turned his back and walked away.

Pauline broke down on the floor, very flustered and confused. Soon, the tears starting falling like a flood. She had lost everything. EVERYTHING.

Lola watched the younger woman weep away and her heart broke. She wished she could help, but the poor woman had always snubbed her. She dipped her hands into her purse and brought out a card. She knelt beside the young woman. “If you need to talk, please call me on this number. I will be glad to help you.” She stood up and walked back into the room where her ‘goddaughter’ was being prepared to leave.

Pauline stared at the paper on the floor. She didn’t want anybody poking into her life. She didn’t want any advice from anybody. She just wanted to be alone. Calling the woman was the last thing she would do, even if it was her last breath. She picked up the card and squeezed it as hard as she could. Her life was over.

 

***********************************

2.40p.m.

Bola sat rigid against the black leather seat of the car with her bandaged left leg and arm carefully tucked in comfortable positions. She was very tired and had just gone through the most horrifying moment of her life. In the last few hours, she had been forcefully involved in a drug deal, had nearly lost her life in a motor accident and had almost been murdered in cold blood by the man she thought was her way into a better life. Her life had been a roller coaster, going round and round and always ending up where she started, without a purpose. Stagnant.

She took a quick peek at the woman sitting at the other edge of the seat. The way her hands were placed calmly on her laps showed she was someone who had everything under control. She had come to Bola’s rescue before, when Bola had almost been put behind bars after her theft incident in the Mall, and here she was again, helping her out of a precarious situation. As much as she tried to deny it, Bola knew she owed the woman her life. If not for her, she wondered who she could have turned to. When the woman had stepped into the room after Bosco had been disarmed, Bola had jumped off the bed into her arms. Suddenly, the person she had once turned her back against suddenly became her only hope of safety and salvation. And for the first time in her life, she was grateful. Someone had shown great kindness to her and had not asked for something in return.

A little nudge on her left made her turn to see her little brother, sitting in the middle, smiling up at her. He looked so happy that Bola could not resist returning the smile. He had been a brave hero, her knight in shining armour, without whom everything would have gone sour. He had been the one who had made the call that would save her life. She ruffled in hair and tried to kiss him on the forehead.

“You should be careful not to stress yourself at all.” A woman, dressed in a nurse’s attire and sitting in the front seat, advised. “Today has been a long day for you.”

“For all of us, actually.” Lola replied. “Once we get home, we need all the rest we can get. It’s been an eventful day.”

Lola turned her head to the young girl. “What happened today is a miracle you should thank God for. That He brought us together again is astonishing, isn’t it? And at the point where you needed urgent help. I should get in touch with your parents and tell them where I am taking you.”

“No!” Bola yelped. Then she calmed down. “I mean you cannot tell anyone where I am.”

“Why?” Lola could not understand why the young girl would want to keep her location secret from her parents.

“I don’t have a family. It is just my brother and I.”

Lola faced her fully. “You mean you don’t have a family? What happened to them?”

“Nothing.” Bola was getting nervous. Couldn’t this woman not just stop bothering her with questions?

“Baba sent us out of the house.” Tomiwa cut in, much to his sister’s annoyance.

“And your mother?” Lola asked, a bit flustered by the response she was getting.

As Tomiwa was about to answer, Lola placed a hand above his mouth.  “Our mother died when she gave birth to Tomiwa.” She lied. “And since then we have been living with our father until he sent us packing.” If only the woman could stop asking these irritating questions.

“Why did he send you packing?”

Bola was fed up and this time, she shouted. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with us anymore! Please stop asking questions and if we will be a liability to you too, please stop the car and let us get out.”

The silence in the car was deafening and all eyes were on Bola. Bola clasped a hand over her mouth, too ashamed of the foolish words that just fell out her mouth. Now, everyone would see how ungrateful and disrespectful she was.

“It’s okay.” Lola’s words were gentle and calm. “You have gone through a lot of stress today and are going through a lot of trauma right now. It is my fault. This isn’t the right time to bug you with questions.”

Bola stared at the woman’s eyes and tears filled hers. How could the woman still be kind to her after what she just did? “I… I am sorry. I did not mean to be rude.”

Lola smiled sweetly, patting the girl’s head. “It’s okay, dear. You were only acting out of strain. I am sure when we get to know each other better in the coming days, you will find I am just trying to help. And just to get this out between us, I do not see you or your brother as liabilities, okay?”

Bola could hardly respond and she fought to hold back the tears. She turned her head, facing the window before they could spill. Right now, she was very confused at the turn of events in her life. And as much as she tried to appreciate the kindness being shown to her, it seemed the bad side of her would always show up, that side that had grown to be selfish, suspicious and scared of any benevolence directed at her, as if there was a darkness within her, holding her from reaching out to the light that shone her way. Would she ever overcome that part of her?

Lola relaxed into the seat, her eyes closed. She had been slightly shaken when the girl had shouted back at her. Everyone had. She had enough problems of her own already, and now she had to take on another person’s problems? And the person happened to be a girl who would have none of her and did not appreciate her kind gesture. This would be worse than she thought. Obviously a very bad decision on her part.

I cannot do this, Lord. I just cannot. This is more than I can handle.

Why don’t you leave that to me and do your part.

Lola opened her eyes wide as she recognized that familiar Voice. What part is mine, Lord?

It’s so simple. Simply trust Me. Is anything too hard for Me?

Nothing is, Lord. Nothing is. Lola smiled within herself as she adjusted herself into a more cozy position as her breathing became more even and sleep she had been fighting finally took over.

 

TRIANGULAR (9)

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SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014

1.05pm

Bosco parked opposite the Duro-Soleye Hospital and studied the environment. Here everyone minded his business and no one would suspect an assassin was around, so doing this job would be easy. All he needed to do was to enter the hospital, pretend to be Bola’s brother, get directions to her room and when they were alone, he would kill her. Thankfully, it was a silent pistol so no one would hear a thing. Perfect plan!

He, however, needed to be careful especially of that policewoman, if she was still around. He still wondered how she got to know about the exchange and where and when it would take place. If not for her, everything would have gone according to plan. She had foiled everything and created this mess for him. He saw her now as she walked out of the hospital compound, looking like every other woman on the street. No one would know there was more to her. She was a devil sent to make his life a living hell, but he was about to change that. The woman, dressed in plain, yellow shirt and a pair of black trousers, seemed to be staring at his car before she turned left and walked away, with her phone placed on her ear. Now, the coast was clear for him. His hand went underneath his jacket to check what hung inside the holster and when he felt the cold steel against his hands, his courage went a notch higher. He needed to do this job right or he would lose more than his life.

He got out of the car and locked the door. Then he went to the boot and laid his hands on it. Something was there that no one should know about. Something he needed to discard once he was done with this job. He headed straight into the hospital, crossing the road and into the compound. It was a small, two storey hospital and when he entered the large reception, he met a nurse at the desk.

He quickly twisted his face as if he was in deep worry. “Nurse, please. I am here for my sister. I heard she was involved in an accident and was brought here. Her name is Bola.”

The petite nurse looked up from the file in her hands. “Oh! Thank God! We have not been able to make any contact with her family. She had no phone on her. Thankfully, you are here.”

“Is she okay?” Bosco held tightly to the desk. “Is my sister okay? Can I see her?”

“Well, she is resting now. Luckily, the car was not on top speed or else it could have been worse. She got some dislocations though and some bruises here and there, but nothing that won’t heal.”

“Oh! Thank God!” Bosco looked VERY relieved. “Our mother nearly died when I told her. She is on her way, but may not be here anytime soon. But I am here. Is Bola alone? Can I see her now?”

“Unfortunately, she is sleeping now, so it’s best not to disturb her.” The nurse pointed at one of the seats in the reception. “You can sit there and wait. I promise I will alert you once she wakes up. I am sure she will be happy to see you.”

That didn’t go down well with Bosco. “I want to see my sister now and you are telling me to sit and wait for her to awake! I just want to see her and stay by her side, holding her hands! I am her brother!”

“Excuse me, please!”

Two pair of eyes turned to the entrance, when an elderly but graceful-looking woman stood.

“How can I help you, ma?” The nurse asked.

The woman walked slowly to the desk. “My name is Mrs. Williams and I will like to see Bola.”

“Oh! You must be her mother we have been expecting.” The nurse’s eyes flew back to Bosco. “Thank God she is here.” She walked around the desk. “Let me check on Bola and see if she is awake and fit to receive visitors. You can sit down there and wait.”

Lola raised her hand to object she was not the mother, but something told her to hold back. Bola, whoever she was, was in danger and she needed to be careful. Her killers could be anywhere.

She walked to the seat area and sat on one of the chairs. The young man, on the other hand, refused to sit and kept his eyes on the nurse till she entered one of the rooms. He looked very agitated and Lola felt sorry for him. She wondered who he was, a close family member or a friend. Still, there was something eerie about him and about the way the veins throbbed in his neck.

“I assume you are here for Bola too.” Lola asked him.

“Yes.”

“Are you her friend or brother?”

Bosco stopped pacing and gave the woman a hard look. “I am her friend. Who are you to her? I know you are not the mother because I have never met you before.”

“Well, you can say I’m her friend too.” Though I have never met her.

“I’ve known her since childhood. This accident nearly took her life, but thank God it didn’t.”

Accident? Lola thought wildly. The little boy never mentioned that. This must be worse than she was told. Maybe she should just stand up and leave. “I hope she’s fine.”

The nurse returned, shaking her head. “She is still sleeping and I am sorry, I cannot wake her. You will have to wait till she wakes up.”

“Where is your restroom, please?” Bosco asked, holding his trousers as if he was really under pressure.

“The male restroom is that way.” The nurse pointed to the same direction she had returned from. “First room on your left on the corridor.”

Bosco walked smartly to the restroom, hiding a smile. He had studied the area very well. The restroom was just opposite the room where Bola was. All he needed to do was to pretend to use the restroom and then sneak out to the other room, making sure no one saw him. Then he would do what he came here to do and sneak out after giving a lame excuse.

He entered the restroom and stayed there for about a minute before moving. He opened the door very quietly and looked from left to right. Not a soul moved in the corridor and the nurse was deep into a phone conversation. The old woman kept staring at the entrance as if she was expecting someone to come through. Within few seconds, he tiptoed to the other side, his back against the wall. Then his hand went to the knob of the door beside him. This is it, he smiled to himself, as he left himself in.

 

************************************

1.05pm – same time

“I’m sorry I cannot just let you go, Mrs….” The doctor looked through the file in his hand for the name of his Patient.

“Pauline. Just call me Pauline.” I am Mrs. Nobody.

“Okay, Pauline. You have some first degree burns especially on your right arm and a bit of it on your left.”

Pauline sat up on the hospital bed. “Yes, I know that, but it isn’t something major. It isn’t like I have burns all over my body that I cannot do anything else or even take care of myself.”

“Yes, right. But still, I need you to stay for one night. Plus, you look like an emotional wreck.” The doctor insisted.

“He is right, Pauline.” Ezinne agreed with him. “The burn doesn’t look good at all.” Plus you look like an emotional wreck.

Pauline gave up. They were right anyway. “Okay. Just one night.”

The doctor smiled. “Thank you for accepting. I have to check on my other patients now. I promise I will check up on you again before my shift is over.”

“Okay, thank you, doctor.” Pauline rested back into the bed, making sure her bandaged hand was safely tucked beside her.

“What are you going to do now?” Ezinne asked immediately the door closed after the doctor. “I cannot believe what that witch did this to you.”

“I don’t know. I feel I have lost the battle already so there is nothing else I can do to get my husband back. I have failed, Ezinne.”

Ezinne exhaled sharply. Anytime her friend became pessimistic, it affected her, made her want to fight for Pauline. When she had arrived at Pauline’s house some hours ago and saw the burns, it took all her willpower and persuasion from Pauline to stop her from climbing up the stairs and forcing her way into the house to pour a bucket of hot water on Nneka.

“I almost told him.” Pauline spoke sadly. “Almost told him my darkest secret. Been thinking if it would have changed anything if I had opened up. Perhaps it would have made him more understanding, empathic.”

“Or made him hate you more.” Ezinne stood up, irritated at her friend’s words. “You never told him before he married you. You kept that secret from him for eight years, Pauline. Eight long years! He will detest you, blame you for all the delay. It was good you withheld it from telling him. You would have got more than first degree burns. Maybe a first-class assault.”

Ezinne’s words felt like hot steam on Pauline’s skin, adding to the pain she already was going through. Guilt gnawed at her, condemning her for keeping quiet all these years. But she had been afraid. Afraid to speak out. Afraid no man would have wanted her. Ashamed of being tagged a rape victim. Frightened to come out of the shell she had shielded herself in. She never knew that someday that shell would crack, exposing her to the shadows of her past and she would have nowhere to hide or run to for safety. That day had finally come.

Her phone vibrated and Ezinne picked it up from the bedside table. Her mouth opened in surprise as she handed over the phone to Pauline. “It’s Ola.”

Pauline almost jumped out of the bed, forgetting her pains temporarily. “Ola?” She grabbed the phone from Ezinne. Ola? What did he want with her? She thought he had completely forgotten about her. After the Friday reunion, he had not called her neither did not mention he would like to see her again when the meeting ended. And Pauline had not wanted to see him ever again. Not after she realized she would never be more than a friend to him.

“Pick the call, Pauline.” Ezinne encouraged. “Isn’t he the nice pastor guy you told me about?”

Pauline dropped the phone on the table and turned her back against it, fighting off the temptation to pick the call. She desperately wanted to. “No, I cannot. I thought he had travelled back to the States. Why is he calling me?” Especially when I am weak and need a strong shoulder to cry on.

“Maybe there was more to the meeting then. Maybe he felt a connection too.”

Pauline gasped. “How can you say that, Ezinne? A connection? He is married, for Pete’s sake, and has a happy family. The last thing I need right now is to be another man’s play tool.” The line cut and she relaxed. She overcame the temptation.

Ezinne sat beside her friend. “If he did not feel something, then why would he call at all?”

The phone started ringing again.

“Or why would he be calling again?” Ezinne added, picking the phone and placing it before Pauline. “Just pick the call, Pauline. Forget what I said about the connection thing. You need people around you now and right now, it’s becoming too tasking for me to be all you need. It’s just a call from a friend, that’s all.”

Pauline watched the phone ring and slowly her hands went to the handset. She took in a deep breath. “Hello.”

“Hi, Pauline!” Ola sounded very excited. “I thought you were busy, just decided to try my luck one more time. Will be leaving on Tuesday, so I thought we could catch up one last time before I leave. Can we see tomorrow, if that’s okay with you?”

Yes! Yes!!, Pauline wanted to scream out.  “I…I can… I cannot, Ola. I’m sorry. I will be very… very busy.” Pauline tried to pull herself together. “I will not be available.”

“Are you okay? You don’t sound too good.” His voice was filled with concern and Pauline almost changed her mind. “Where are you?” He asked.

“In the hospital. Just had a minor accident, but I will be out in no time.”

“You are in the hospital? That’s not good. Where is the hospital? Let me come and see you now.”

“No, you cannot.”

“I insist. What kind of accident is that? Is your husband aware? Is he there with you?”

There was a moment of silence as Pauline did not know how to respond. Her husband was not there, had never been there. She had been all alone for a long time. “I’m okay, but if you insist, it’s Duro-Soleye Hospital in Ikeja.”

“Got it. I’m getting my driver to bring me down right away. Is there anything you would want me to come along with? Beverages, food, anything?”

How about a dose of love? “Bring anything that comes to your mind.”

“Okay, on my way. Will be with you shortly.”

The line cut and Pauline dug her head into the pillow. What have I done?

“So I guess he is on his way?” Ezinne asked with a sheepish smile on her face.

“Yes, and I hope I am not making a mistake.”

“Not at all. It’s just a friendly visit, that’s all, and I think you should be happy there are people who still care about you.”

Pauline sighed. Ezinne was right. Right now, she needed those who loved her to be around her more than ever. There was nothing wrong in having Ola over, was there? No, there wasn’t. But why was her heart beating so hard as if she had just committed a fatal error?

 

******************************

1.35pm

She was sleeping when he walked in. He smiled. This would be easier than he thought. He would just point the pistol at her chest and hit his target. She would not feel a thing. His hand went to his pistol pad. He would do this quick and get out of here before anyone could notice a thing. Her head turned sideways as if she was trying to wake up and she mumbled some things he could barely hear. Her broken right arm was fully bandaged and placed above her chest and her left leg was raised, hanging above her body. It appeared she was greatly hit. Well, she deserved it. If she had kept her mouth shut, minded the business she was sent to do, all these would not have happened. She deserved the pain she got and she also deserved to die. His hand went to the holster beneath his jacket.

“Bosco?” It was barely a whisper.

Bosco moved closer to the bed, hiding the gun behind him. “Yes, Bola.”

Her eyes still looked sleepy, but she was awake. There were bits of scratches here and there on her face. “What happened?”

“A car hit you.” He replied in Yoruba.

Bola twisted her face as she tried to recall everything that happened. “I messed up.”

“Yes, you didn’t follow instructions and you messed up everything.” How he hated her right now!

“How is my brother?” She tried to sit up as panic steadily took over. “Where is my brother?”

“Your brother is not here.”

“Where is he? I want to see him.” Bola tried to get off the bed.

“No, you will not. You remember our bargain, don’t you? Your foolishness has cost us too much already and your brother too will pay for it.”

“What do you mean by ‘too’?” Bola’s eyes followed his right hand that had rested underneath his jacket. “You are here to kill me?” Panic took the full swing. But before any sound could come out of her throat, Bosco brought out the gun and hit her hard on the head with the butt, knocking her out.

Then he raised the pistol above her chest, counting one, two, three and as he pulled the trigger…

The door flung open. “Drop your weapon!”

Bosco froze on his feet. He turned and saw a woman in yellow and black cloth point a pistol directly at his head.

“I will not repeat myself. Drop that gun!” Detective Bridget looked like she would not miss her target if the young man made the mistake of pulling the trigger. “Put your hands on your head.”

Bosco looked from the fearsome Detective to the unconscious lady on the bed and back. He had almost accomplished this task until this stupid policewoman came in. No doubt, she had been watching him and he had fallen prey to her trap. He held on to the gun. “If you kill me, you will not find her brother. Only I know where he is, so you need me alive.”

“You mean the boy you hid inside your boot? Don’t worry. I got him out.”

Gobe!  Bosco thought wildly. It was clear all odds were against him. If only he could turn the tables… Without warning, he turned the gun on the Detective quickly and as he pulled the trigger, he felt several waves of pain in his legs. He slumped on the floor, writhing in pain.

“You should have listened to me instead.” Detective Bridget stood vigilant, ready to release more shots. She moved closer to him and knocked him out with the butt of her gun. “That is to teach you to obey Police Officers.”

She dashed to the bed, afraid she was too late to save the poor girl. She had almost lost hope when she entered the room and found the girl unconscious with a gun raised above her body. But when she felt the pulse on the girl’s neck, the Detective breathed a sigh of relief. She made it just in time.

 

****************************

At the adjoining room

“What was that?” Pauline asked, fear on her face as she laid face-down on the floor beside Ezinne.

“I don’t know. Sounds like a gun.” Ezinne replied, equally afraid.

“Gunshot in an hospital?”

“Shhhh!” Ezinne cautioned her friend. “Sounds like it’s coming from the room next to us.”

“Maybe my husband has come to kill me.”

“Don’t be silly!” Ezinne pressed her ears against the floor. “Looks like it has stopped. Let me go and check what it is.”

“What!” Pauline disagreed. “What if a stray bullet hits you?”

“There are no more gunshots, Pauline. I need to know what is out there if we are to get out of here alive.”

There was a heavy knock on the door and both women nearly fainted from fright.

“This is Detective Bridget. You may come out of your rooms. Everything is safe now.” The voice was definitely a woman’s and sounded very authoritative.

Slowly, Ezinne opened the door and right at the entrance was a woman in a commando position holding a pistol, with a very serious look on her face.

“Who are you?” Ezinne asked. A killer, no doubt.

“I already told you my name.” The Detective’s voice was blunt. “I just came here to tell you not to be scared. I got everything under control and the killer has been unarmed.” She moved to check if there were occupants in other rooms.

Killer? Pauline rose from the floor and walked slowly out of the room. Who would an assassin come to murder in an hospital? The shots indeed came from the next room and when she got there, she met a man lying flat in a pool of blood while the doctor was trying to calm a young woman, who was hysterical. Beside him was another woman, more elderly, who equally looked panic-stricken.

“What happened here?” She asked in a trembling voice.

Three pairs of eyes turned to look at her and she almost choked on her feet when she recognized two of those pairs.

What the heck is going on here?

 

************************************

2.10pm

“Sign here, please.” Detective Bridget passed a form and a pen to the elderly woman.

“Thank you, Detective ….”

“Detective Bridget.” Bridget answered with a smile. She was used to having people accept the fact that a woman could be such a good police officer that would bring down an armed man with a gun. So she was not surprised when she had walked through the door of the hospital with a pistol in her hand and the older woman had looked like she was about to jump out of her skin.

Lola signed the paper with trembling hand, barely focusing on the form. Her eyes were on the woman who had just brought down an armed assassin in a matter of minutes. The detective had walked through the door and asked them to quietly exit the hospital. Then she had locked the door from inside to go on a mission she evidently did not want compromised. The next thing Lola heard was a number of gunshots that had her and the nurse scampering away for safety. Then, there was the silence, after which the detective opened the door to tell them all was safe and the nurse should come in to do some cleaning.

“How did you know he was coming to kill the girl?” Lola could not keep her curiosity at bay. Plus, there was something about the officer than seemed strangely familiar, but she could not place her hands on it.

“Well, we had this lead, who unfortunately, was killed by the assassin’s men some weeks back. She informed us about a set of gang who was involved in drug-trafficking and peddling. According to her, the gang exploited innocent girls who they sometimes use to do the exchange and that one of the meeting places was Allen Bus stop. So, I had been waiting for an exchange to take place for many days now and I almost gave up. But today I got lucky. It is not every Sunday you see a girl in school uniform waiting at a major bus stop in Lagos. The nurse told me you came for the girl. Are you related to her?”

Lola was speechless. She had not thought of how to reply if asked that question. “Well, we not really related.”

“I thought as much.” Bridget took a quick scan of the older woman, taking note of the quality clothing on her. “You do not look like you would have a daughter who would fall prey to such act. They often use girls from poor background and who are desperate to make a living. So, I guess you are just a concerned somebody too?”

“I got a call from her brother. I was on my way home from another hospital when his call came through. He sounded very helpless and I could not resist his plea. So I changed course and came here immediately.”

“You are a good woman. Not many people will do that.” Bridget commended with an appreciative smile.

“Thank you, Detective. So what will happen to the girl?”

“Well, it’s obvious she needs more time to recuperate. This event has caused more than enough trauma than she can handle. For her safety, we will need to move her out of this place. Her life is in more danger than ever as the top dog of this criminal gang will more desperate to take her life. I need to get her to somewhere safe, somewhere no one would know where she is. She is my primary witness.”

“She can come and stay with me.”

“No, I don’t think…” Bridget raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Lola chastised herself for not thinking before speaking. How could she suggest that? Take the girl into her home as if that would solve the problem? It was clear it would not. Plus, the girl had expressed shock when Lola had walked into the room with the doctor. It was evident on her face that she had not been happy to see the older woman. Lola sighed deeply. “Never mind. There is…”

“That would be perfect!” Bridget was ecstatic. “We can move her right away to your home right away. Any extra minute spent here is putting her life more at risk.”

Lola folded her hands in disagreement. “I don’t think she would want to come with me. Actually, the girl and I have met before and our meeting wasn’t pleasant. She did not want to have anything to do with me.”

“Well, she doesn’t have a choice now. Go get your car ready. She is moving in with you and I hope you do not mind having her brother too.” Bridget nodded at the little boy who was being attended to by the doctor. He looked very tired, but in his eyes, a light of victory shone bright.

When Lola met the boy some minutes ago, she fell in love with him instantly. Something about him reminded her of Charles when he was little. Perhaps, it was in the way he carried himself as if as he was bigger than what he was or it was the bravery of his heart that melted hers. “I guess I can handle both of them.”

“Good.” Bridget concluded, walking away. “I will get them ready.”

“Wait!” Lola reached out to her. “I just have one question. Why would you trust me with this?”

“Because I know you very well, Mrs. Lola Williams. And I know that you always like to sit in the back left corner in the church every Sunday so you would greet people as they pass by.” Bridget tilted her head with a grin on her face as she walked away. “The world is a small place, isn’t it?”

Lola was stunned. That was it! She must have seen the Officer in the church, but the woman had looked different, wielding a gun. The world was indeed a small place, which was why it was important one needed to keep a clean state every time. She turned her head and met the eyes of the young boy who was being treated. The warmth in his smile enveloped her like a cloud and she smiled back. He did not need to say anything. His smile said it all. Thank you for believing me.

TRIANGULAR (8)

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SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014

9.20am – The Grace Cathedral, Ikeja

Pauline tapped her feet impatiently. She had been waiting, actually hiding in-between the cars for close to thirty minutes now and still had no sight of her husband… or his car. She knew he did not like missing church neither did he like arriving late. So something must be wrong. Church had started some twenty minutes ago and there was no sign of him. She resisted the urge to dial his number with her phone. It would make her look like she was begging and trying to get back into his life, and that was the least thing on her agenda. There was only one thing she desired – to have her revenge on the man who had taken away her joy. Quietly, she walked down to a call centre at the end of the street. She would dial his number from there so he would not be able to trace the caller. If he picked the call, then he was not in church. George always switched off his phone while in church.

“I want to make a call.” She spoke to the young girl who sat under the umbrella, waiting for customers.

The girl brightened up and quickly handed over the phone in her hand. “Good morning, ma.” She greeted with a smile.

Pauline was not in any cheerful mood, so she simply acknowledged the greeting with a nod, collected the phone and took some steps away from the girl.

She closed her eyes tightly. Should she do this? Wasn’t she harming herself more? What did she hope to gain? Wasn’t this foolishness? Maybe she should return the phone and apologise to the poor girl. On the other hand, she could be bold and dial the number and see if George picks. If he does picks, what would happen? Her thoughts were jumbled and disjointed. Maybe this was a mistake.

Her phone rang unexpectedly and she nearly dropped it out of fright. It was probably Ezinne, who had woken up and found out her distraught friend had left the house, but she was shocked when she saw the caller. It was George. She started shaking with indecision. Should she pick or not pick? Perhaps she should hold on and let this fail and then see if he would call again.

“Aunty, no be your phone dey ring so?” The call centre girl asked. “You no wan pick am?”

Pauline’s hand hovered around the green button and when the call was about to come to an end, she pressed the key.

“Hello.” She tried to make her voice as dispassionate as possible. There was no way she would make him think she was an emotional wreck.

“Pauline, where are you?” George sounded very annoyed. “Do you want to disgrace me? Why didn’t you tell me your mother was coming over for a visit?”

“My… my mother?” Pauline could not believe what he just said. She had not invited her mother over, so what was she doing in the house? “You mean my mother is there in the house?”

“Stop asking me stupid questions. Get yourself down here immediately. She has started asking some silly questions, asking after you and why another woman opened the door for her. I cannot take anymore nonsense from your family. Leave wherever you are right now and get down here immediately, you hear me?” He cut the call.

Pauline was confused. Why would her mother make an unexpected visit without first informing her? What was going on? Quickly, she handed the girl’s phone over to her, whispering incoherent apologies and ran to the nearest bus stop where she could get a bike.

“Church Street, Salvation Road in Opebi… do you know the place?” She asked a young chap wearing dark-rimmed glasses.

The boy who looked like a teenager nodded. “But that place too far o! E go cost you. You fit pay?” He asked, taking in her odd appearance.

“How much?”

The boy scratched his head. “N500.”

“Oya, let’s go.” Without waiting, Pauline jumped on the bike behind the boy. “Please go as fast as you can.”

“Alright, madam.” The boy brought the machine to life and zoomed off.

Pauline rubbed her eyes to be sure she was not dreaming, but the pounding in her veins told her she wasn’t. This was real. Her phone rang again and this time it was Ezinne, but instead of picking, Pauline decided to cut the call. Right now, she did not need her friend to stop her from doing what she wanted to do. She switched off her phone to prevent further calls.

Fifteen minutes later, she stood in front of her home and took the stairs up slowly and alert to any sudden movement. When she got to her doorstep, she raised her hand to knock but couldn’t. The fear of what laid behind the door crippled her. Maybe she should just turn back and leave, call her mother and get her out of the place, make…

The door opened without warning and Nneka was at the entrance. She had a basket in her hand as if she was going to the market. Shock played on her face when she saw Pauline, but she quickly recovered.

“I go soon come back, Uncle.” She shouted back into the house. “Madam don come.”

Almost immediately, George appeared behind her and closed the door after him. He turned his full fury on Pauline. “You and your mother are toying with me, right? You think I am a fool and don’t know what you are planning. You called your mother to come in here to beg me to take you back. But you are mistaken. Your stay in this house is over, you hear me?” He faced Nneka. “Go and find a place to stay for some hours. I will call you to let you know when to return.”

“Yes, my love.” She stood on her toes and planted a kiss on his cheek. Then she cast Pauline a contemptuous look, rubbing her belly and communicating a silent, but lethal message.

Pauline willed all her strength to restrain herself from reacting. This was not the moment to cause a scene. She had hoped that the next time she would see George, she would have the upper hand, but things had turned out the other way and against her. She waited for Nneka to get out of the audible range before she turned her full attention to George.

“Point of correction.” She started in clear, icy tones. “I did not get my mother here to beg you. I will never do that because I have no interest in spending more miserable years with you. I am as surprised as you are by her visit and had no prior knowledge. She did not even call me. So don’t blame me if you cannot handle a situation you caused yourself.”

“I don’t care what you think and it doesn’t matter whether you knew or not.” George’s eyes blazed with fire. “Point is, your mother is here and I will need you to act as if everything is fine between us. You will tell her you just took a walk down the street and are just returning. You will not, in any way, make her feel there is something wrong or that you no longer live here. I am sure you do not want her leaving here with heartache.”

“I know I have to act like the good wife and you the adoring husband, though we both know it’s all a façade. You play your part and let me play mine. This pretence is only for a short while. Soon, the whole world will know what you are trying desperately to hide. Then I will see how much pride you will have left.” Pauline walked past George into the house. She had no intention of waiting for his reply.

As she stepped into the living room, her mother walked out of the visitor’s rest room.

“Mama!” Pauline flung herself into her mother’s arms. “Mama, I have missed you.”

Mrs. Adesuwa, a women in her sixties, but who looked younger and graceful, tightened her grasp on her daughter. “Pauline, it is so good to see you.”

“You don’t know how happy I am that you are here, though you did not inform me you were coming and on a Sunday morning. What if we had gone to church early? Was it supposed to be a surprise visit? What of Papa?”

The older woman released her child. “One question at a time. Well, I am sorry. You are right. I should have informed you and your husband before coming, but you know how terrible the network is at our end sometimes, so I decided to try my luck. And here I am! Unfortunately, I shall not be staying too long as I have to return to your father today. You know how much he likes having me around.” She noticed the withdrawn look on Pauline’s face. “Are you okay? You look tired. Too much work?”

Pauline forced a smile on her lips as she studied her mother. Mama had always been the perceptive one, always sensing when something was wrong or right and always ready to proffer solutions. But this problem was one she would never be able to solve, because she would never know about it.

“I’m fine, Mama. A lot has been happening lately, but you have trained me well to be a survivor. All I need is rest and I shall be fine in no time.”

Mama drew closer to her ear. “You know this wahala you are doing could be one of the reasons of the delay. You should take some leave off work and maybe come and spend some days with me in Abeokuta. I met a man who specializes in helping barren women. I hear he is very good. You should meet him.”

George walked towards them with a tray filled with eggplants and groundnut. “Here is for the most wonderful mother-in-law in the world.”

“Oh!” Mama picked one eggplant . “How did you know this is my favourite fruit?” She smiled at George. “You know, when my daughter brought you home as the man she wanted to marry, I felt a lot of hesitation, considering you were Igbo and we were Yoruba, but I must confess you have impressed me so much. Despite the apparent delay, which we are hoping will come to an end soon, you have stuck at my daughter’s side against all odds. I am very happy she made the right decision.”

George and Pauline exchanged nervous glances.

“Well, I am the lucky man here. Marrying your lovely daughter is the best thing that happened to me.” George replied, pulling Pauline close to him and kissing her forehead. “Don’t worry, Mama. I assure you that soon, you shall carry your grandchildren. You just have a little more patience with us. We are praying about this and believe God will answer us soon.”

“Well, I believe that too.” Mama sat on one of the chairs. “I should be leaving soon. So, if there is anything you want to feed me with or send to your father-in-law, go and get them ready.”

George kissed Pauline on the forehead again. “Go and cook something delicious for Mama, honey. Let me go inside and see what we have in the house and gather for her.”

“Yes… Yes, Love.” Pauline replied rigidly as she dashed straight to the kitchen. While there, she took some seconds to do a recall of the drama that just happened. George was a very good actor… and liar. And while she desperately wanted to call his bluff, she knew she had to play along as well to fool her mother. After Mama left, she would give George a piece of her mind.

“Are you sure everything is okay between you and your husband?”

Pauline nearly jumped out of her skin at that voice. She turned and saw Mama standing at the entrance of the kitchen. “You always know how to sneak up on someone. Everything is okay… fine.”

Mama rubbed her chin. “I must have perceived wrongly. The way you stood in his arms as if you did not want him to touch you must have deceived me.”

Pauline quickly turned her face away so Mama could not see the truth in her eyes as more lies flowed out of her mouth. “I am just tired, nothing more. He is my husband and I… I love him.”

“You should consider what I told you about that Baba in Abeokuta. I told him about you and he said he can help. We can give him a try. Promise me you will come.”

“That’s the reason you came, right? To come and convince me about this man.”

“Well… yes. I needed to tell you face-to-face because I know I can never convince you over the phone. I spoke to your father about it and he is in agreement too. Your husband does not need to know if you do not want to tell him. You only tell him you are coming to visit us.”

Pauline picked an onion ball and began to slice it, a lot going through her mind. Her mother had proffered a solution she would never have considered. Going to see a native doctor was not something she wanted to do, but she knew her mother would not rest unless she gave a positive answer. “Okay, Mama. I will take some time off work and come to Abeokuta,”

“Good. That is what I want to hear. I promise you this will work.” Mama walked back to the living room with satisfaction on her face. She had achieved her goal.

An hour later, Mama was ready to leave and both husband and wife wished her a safe journey, with George accompanying her to the closest bus stop. When he returned to the house five minutes afterward, Pauline was seated on the sofa, waiting for him. She looked like a mad woman about to go on the loose and George smirked, wondering what she had on the back of her mind. He had lived with her for eight years and knew what she could do and what she could not do. He knew she did not have the guts to stand up to him. Never had, never will.

“What are you waiting for?” He asked her. “The act is over. You can go back to wherever it is you came from.”

“I am not going anywhere.” Pauline sat more comfortably into the sofa, lines of stubbornness etching her brow. “This is my home as much as it is yours.”

George was confused. “I don’t get it. An hour ago, you stated clearly how you didn’t want to spend more miserable years with me and now you are saying what? That you want to stay?”

Pauline stood up and walked towards the window, her back against him. She had felt really bad tricking her mother and when Mama had praised George and said Pauline had made the right decision to marry him, Pauline wished she had spoken out and told Mama the truth. But the way Mama looked so proud and happy had made her keep quiet and play along instead. Mama had expressed hope for her marriage and guilt had eaten her up, making her regret why she gave up so easily. Perhaps, she could have fought more for her position in the house, could have not agreed to the deceitful plan of having another woman take her place or have her mother-in-law dictate the way her family ran. Perhaps, if she had stood up and faced the situation instead of crying and feeling sorry for herself, things would not have gone this bad.

“I did not like the way we deceived my mother.” She spoke calmly. “And I feel really guilty about it.” She turned to face George. “When you said I was the best thing that happened to you, did you really mean it or were you just acting?”

George rolled his eyes, completely ignoring her question. “I am sorry I made you deceive your mother, but we had no choice. We both know our marriage has crumbled, though we try to keep it away from the world. I have tried, Pauline, haven’t I? I am growing older by the day and cannot wait for you anymore. And if God has given me a child through another woman, do you expect me to reject His blessing?”

Pauline stared hard at the floor. How could she tell him to deny the greatest miracle that ever happened to him? A miracle she had not been able to give him. “Oh, George!” She crumbled to the floor. “There is something you should know.”

“And what is that?”

“I don come back.” Nneka walked through the door to join them. She faced George, pointing at Pauline and dropping the basket in her hand. “She never go?”

“I am not going anywhere.” Pauline replied curtly.

“You have to.” George over-rided. “I cannot allow you to stay in this house and be a threat to my baby and his mother.”

“But George…”

“Please, Pauline. Don’t get over-emotional on this. That is what I want and that is what you will do.”

Pauline stood up, her eyes firm like a stone. “Then you would have to carry my dead body out of here. This is my home and nothing can make me leave.”

“You no wan leave?” Nneka pointed an angry finger at Pauline. “Wait, I dey come.” She headed for the kitchen and returned with a water flask. She sat on one of the sofa and opened the flask, pouring some very hot water into the cup as if she wanted to drink it. Without warning, she poured the content on Pauline. “You still dey here?”

Pauline screamed from the hot pain that sliced through her skin. Nneka didn’t wait as she poured more hot water on her rival. George kicked the flask out of Nneka’s hands and pushed her away from Pauline.

“Pauline!” He shouted as he grabbed her collapsing frame. “My God!” He barked at Nneka. “What have you done?”

“Now we go see if she still get mouth.” She directed her fury at Pauline. “You wan come back come use your witch kill my baby, abi? God no go allow you. Onye ochi

Pauline could hardly say a word. Terrible sting throbbed through her right arm, which had suffered most of the attack. She pushed away from George, rushing towards the exit.

George raised his hands to help her.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Pauline yelled at him, her throat clogged with tears. “You have always wanted a divorce. Now you’ve got one! I hate you, George, I hate you so much and curse the day I met you.” She placed her arm on the knob of the door. “You will never hear from me again.”

“Wait!” George reached out to her, but Nneka pulled him back.

“Make she carry her ogbanje go.” Nneka placed a hand on his chest. “Now you are free.” She turned his face to meet hers. “We get family to raise.’

Pauline knew when the battle was completely lost. She shook her head, amidst tears and ran all the way down. All her life had come to this. She was condemned. A complete failure. She wished she had never been born. She brought out her phone to dial Ezinne to pick her up. She saw it was shut down and wondered how hard her friend would have been trying to reach her. Immediately she put it on, another call from Ezinne came through.

Ezinne didn’t wait for Pauline to speak up. “Pauline, where are you? I’ve been to the church but no one has seen you. Are you okay? Where are you?”

“Come to Opebi and pick me up to the hospital.”

“Hospital? What did you go to do in your house, Pauline? Did he hit you?”

“It’s a long story. Just come as quickly as you can. I barely escaped with my life. It could have been worse.”

“I swear, if he has hurt you, I will strangle him myself.”

“Ezinne!”

“I’m on my way. Just stay calm, okay?”

‘Stay calm’ was not how Pauline felt now. She cut the call and moved back to the stairways, sitting on the first flight of steps. She stared at her peeled skin. It would definitely leave a scar, a reminder of how she came, she saw, and lost.

 

**********************************

11.00am

“Should I go over the instructions again just for it to sink properly into your thick skull?” Bosco spoke in native language as he drove Bola to the place where she was to drop a package.

Bola stared out of the car, trying to keep calm while her insides were screaming in terror. She looked at the small black backpack lying on her laps and shook at the thought of what laid inside. Bosco had wrapped 30 packs of cocaine into that bag and Bola was to deliver it to a stranger who will, in turn, hand over to her another bag fill with money. Her hands quaked with apprehension and sweat filled her palms. She had been given no choice but to do the job or risk losing her brother. Earlier in the day, Bosco had threatened to kill Tomiwa if she failed to do this assignment after she made another attempt to appeal to his emotions to allow them leave. He had even made the threat pointing a gun at the poor boy’s head and that had broken her heart. Tomiwa had looked as if he had seen a ghost and the horror in his eyes was one that would forever haunt her.

She took a deep breath. “I got it clearly. I am to stand at Allen Roundabout and try to act as natural as possible. A man with a red fez cap and a black suitcase would come over and stand by my side and when he says he is thirsty and needs a bottle of coke, I will know he is the one I’m waiting for. I should cautiously hand over this bag and wait for him to check the content. If he is satisfied, he will hand over the suitcase to me. I am then to walk down back to the car where you will be waiting to take me back home.”

“Great. Make sure you do not make any silly mistake.” Bosco glanced briefly at her. “You know what will happen if you do.”

Bola’s hands tightened into a fist. “I am well aware and will do this right. Just keep my brother safe.”

“Well, that depends on you.” Bosco made the turn into Awolowo Way and took a quick look at his wristwatch. “We are almost there. The appointment is at 11.30.”

They passed through the front of the Ikeja City Mall and a memory rose up on Bola’s mind. She remembered the old woman who had tried to help her, give meaning to her life, but she had been despicable. She wondered what could have happened if she had allowed help into her life. Instead, she had been an ingrate and had blocked, perhaps, her only chance at a good life. She would not be in a drug business neither would she have her life and that of her brother hanging on a balance. She regretted turning her back against the ‘angel’ that waltzed into her life. She deserved everything happening to her now.

Five minutes later, Bosco parked the car at Allen Bus Stop and asked her to alight. “Cross over to the other side. Can you see where people are waiting for bus?”

Bola nodded.

“Just stay with them and wait for the man, okay?”

Bola nodded again.

“Remember, act natural.” Bosco drove out of the Bus Stop. “And don’t get caught.”

“Caught?” Bola raised her head and saw two policemen standing at the middle of the road, waiting to catch any traffic offenders. “You did not tell me policemen would be here. What if I am caught?”

Bosco replied in an irritated voice. “Then try not to get caught. Remember your brother’s life is in your hands if you ever want to see him again.”

Bola banged the door angrily and as Bosco drove away, she looked around the area. It was a busy place with a bit of traffic as vehicles waited for instructions from the traffic lights. She cast a glance at the policemen but they had their attention on opposite direction. Bola wore the bag on her back and started crossing the two-lane road. When she got to the other side, she went towards a corner and stood there, waiting and hoping that the exchange would be done over with as soon as possible and she could get out of there.

“Hey, school girl! Why are you on school uniform? Isn’t today Sunday?” A tall, sweet-looking lady asked Bola with a broad smile pasted on her face.

Bola looked down at her well-ironed uniform and fought for the right lie to give. “Ermmm… I… I am going back to school. I am a boarder.”

“Oh nice! My son is in the boarding house too. He schools in Federal Government College, Ijaniki.”

Why won’t this woman leave me alone? Bola thought distastefully. She is really distracting me. I need to find a man with a red cap.

“So what’s the name of your school?” The woman asked as two buses parked to pick up people, but she did not enter any.

Bola went stiff. She had never thought of finding out the name of the school she was representing, was not even sure it was the uniform of a real school. So she said the first thing that came to her mind. “Girls Model College.”

“I have never heard of that school before and I thought I knew Lagos very well. Where is the school located?”

Bola wanted to zip up the mouth of this woman. From the corner of her eyes, she picked up a man wearing what looked like a red cap coming towards them. “It’s in Surulere.” She looked at the approaching man. Yes, she was right. He was wearing a red cap and carrying a black suitcase.

“I should check it out. So what class are you?”

The man with the cap was tall and of very intimidating stature. Bola felt like an ant when he stood few steps away from her. He wore a casual T-shirt over a faded pair of jeans. He looked like every normal man. No one would suspect a thing.

“SS3.” Bola began to sweat profusely. All she wanted to do now was to do the exchange and not to have little, unnecessary chitchat.

“Wow! My son is in the same class as yours. What a coincidence!” The woman’s eyes sparkled with delight at the realization. “I hope you read your books well.”

“I feel very thirsty and need a bottle of coke. Where are these boys that sell coke today?” The man’s voice was deep and guttural like thunder and he cast a glance at Bola, telling her with his eyes to end the conversation with the woman.

Bola moved away from the woman and closer to the man, removing the bag from her back as if she wanted to take something from it. She looked left, right and left again and when she saw no one was watching her, not even the woman whom had been taking much of her time, she quickly stretched the bag towards the man, whispering as low as she could. “Here is it, sir.”

The man grabbed the bag from her hands and as he was about to give her the suitcase, the woman turned, holding a pistol in her hands and pointing it at them. “Hold it right there!”

In split seconds, when the man found out they had been discovered, he started running and the woman shot at his right knee. He fell on the ground, writhing in pain.

Bola was shocked beyond her imagination. Who was that woman? She did not wait to find out. The operation had been compromised. As the woman turned towards her direction to grab her, Bola took to her heels.

“Wait! Don’t go! I’m here to help you.” The woman shouted at the top of her voice.

But Bola would not be stopped. Without waiting to check the traffic, she jumped into the road and the last thing she saw was a car coming at full speed towards her. She felt a sharp pain rock her body and felt herself falling down. Little by little, darkness took over her and the last face she saw was the face of Tomiwa, crying for help that would never come.

 

*****************************

12.13pm – Bosco’s House, Surulere

“You are a fool, Bosco! How can you make such a stupid mistake?”

“I didn’t know it would turn out this way.” Bosco barked into his phone as he paced back and forth in his living room. “I had everything under control. I don’t know how this happened.”

“You should know. I trusted you with this and you disappointed me as usual. Can’t you just handle a simple operation?” The voice sounded extremely irritated. “Now you have got us into deeper shit.”

Bosco rubbed his hand through his head in frustration. “What do you want me to do? I promise I will not get it wrong this time.”

“How can I trust you enough to handle a bigger problem when you could not handle a simple job? The girl did not die, Bosco. She is just unconscious, and do you know what this means for us? She will expose us all when she awakes. We are doomed!”

Bosco marched angrily without direction. “So what do we do?”

“You know what to do.”

“I have her brother with me.”

“What a dummy you are! I’m not talking about the inconsequential, little rat. We have to kill the girl before she wakes up and talk to the police.”

“Kill her?” Bosco stopped dead on his feet. “How are we going to do that? She was taken to the hospital immediately and the policewoman went with her. We cannot just walk into the hospital with a pistol and kill her.”

“We? There is no ‘we’ here, Bosco. You alone will do this job. You caused this problem. You must solve it alone. Where is this hospital?”

“Duro-Soleye Hospital in Ikeja. I followed them secretly to be sure.”

“At least, you did one sensible thing. Find your way there now and make sure that girl does not wake up at all. If you mess this up again, I promise you that your life is not the only thing that will go for it.”

“Please don’t touch my mother. I promise I will kill the girl and bring you proof.”

“You better.”

“One last thing… What should I do with the boy?”

“I don’t care. He’s your business.”

The line cut and Bosco fell flat into the closest chair. Today had gone awry for him. He had never been in this kind of situation before since he started this business and right now, he wished he had not met Bola. He wished he had been more careful in picking the new girl to replace the one who was killed. He was a total loser and needed to regain his reputation and save his face, which was why he needed to make sure this next operation was a success. And as for the boy, he would deal with the rat when he returned from the hospital. First things first. He stood up and headed straight to the kitchen to grab a bottle of beer. He needed all the courage he could muster for this job.

Some steps away, two little eyes watched Bosco secretly, too shocked at the revelation that just floated into his ears. Uncle Bosco was going to kill his sister? What had happened to her? Why was she not back with him? Tomiwa knew his sister was in big trouble and that he needed to find some help before she was killed. His hands went to his pocket and he brought out a paper, the card her sister had thrown away. While she forgot about it, he had picked it up and kept it always with him. He was glad he did that now. He looked through the card and saw the number he would dial for help. He quickly ran back into the room and closed the door. Then he went for one of the pillows, where he had kept his sister’s phone, which she had left for him in case something like this happened. Aunty Bola had always been there for him. Now it was time for him to her hero.

 

 

************************************

12.35pm

Emeka peeked at the rear-view mirror and saw his Madam’s long, sad face as he drove her home. She had been very quiet since she came out of the hospital, as if she had some heavy problems on her mind. He knew she was having health issues, but yesterday completely destabilized him when he was called to carry her to the hospital, almost half-dead. The way she was limp had made him freak out and wonder at how delicate life was. This moment one was alive and bubbling and the next, one was just a step away from death. Man was like the wind that came and went like it never happened and that realization got Emeka scared. What would happen to him if he died today?

“Can you please go a bit faster, Emeka?” Lola requested politely from the owner’s seat.  From the moment she stepped out of the hospital, all she wanted was to get into the comfort of her home where she could have time alone to think without any interference. More than ruminate on her predicament, she wanted time alone to pray. God had to find a way out of this for her and though He had been quiet for a while, she was sure He would never leave her.

“Yes, Madam.” Emeka replied, changing gear immediately.

“Hope you do not feel any pains, Mrs. Williams?” Nurse Titi, whom Dr. Aluko had assigned to take care of Lola, asked from the passenger’s seat beside the driver.

Lola gave one of her brightest smiles. “Not at all, Nurse. Thank you.”

“Just let me know if you need anything.” Nurse Titi nodded approvingly before refocusing her attention on the magazine in her hand.

Lola nodded, staring out of the window. Nurse Titi could not give her everything she wanted. The nurse could not bring Charles home neither could she bring Tobi back from the dead. She would do her best, no doubt, but no matter how hard she tried, she still would not be able to take away the kidney disease. Lola sighed with sorrow. This matter was between her and God, which was why she needed to get home on time.

One of her phones rang and she saw an unfamiliar number. Normally she was careful of which calls she picked, but anyone trying to reach her on this particular channel would be someone close to her. She usually did not give her out this phone number or the card which has this number to just anyone. She knew she had to pick the call, but why did she feel the resistance to? Right now, what she needed was not a relative calling to ask for money or her secretary calling to brief her about business affairs. She cut the call and was about to place it into her bag when it rang again.

“Hello!” She almost shouted into the phone.

“Help my sister. They want to kill her.” The voice was barely a whisper, as if the caller was trying hard not to be caught making the call.

“Who is this?” Lola became alert, especially as she deciphered the voice to be a young child’s. “Where did you get my number?”

“She is in Soleye Hospital in Ikeja. Please save my sister before they kill her.”

“Who is your sister and what is her name?”

“Bola…” The voice trailed away.

Lola heard another voice, this time an adult male, holler at the caller and the last thing she heard was the little boy’s scream before the line was cut. She stared at her phone and was confused about what just happened. Was that a prank call? It couldn’t have been. The scream of horror was too real. The boy could not have had access to her phone number unless… “Change of plan, Emeka. We are going to Ikeja now!”

Emeka and Nurse Titi turned to query this new decision.

“Why, Madam?” Emeka asked. “I think say you wan get home on time.”

“You need rest, Mrs. Williams.” Nurse Titi added with concern in her eyes.

“Just drive there and don’t ask me any questions. We are going to Soleye Hospital.” Lola turned to the Nurse. “Do you know the Hospital, Nurse?”

“Yes, I do. A friend of mine works there. Is there a problem?” Nurse Titi asked, a bit worried about her Patient’s sudden panic.

“Good. We go there now. Someone needs our help and if we do not hurry, what we shall meet shall be her corpse.”

“What!” Emeka did a quick u-turn, changing routes.

“Do you know who this person is?” Nurse Titi asked Lola.

Lola stared at the nurse with her mouth wide open. What was she doing, she chided herself, going to save someone who was in grave danger and endangering her own life and those of others alongside? What if it involved very bad people? But the boy had sounded so desperate, like he depended on her, trusted her to save his sister.

“What’s her name, Mrs. Williams? The person we are going to rescue?” Nurse Titi asked again.

“I… I have no idea.” Lola replied, staring out of the car.

TRIANGULAR (7)

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SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014

1.45am – Bosco’s house, Surulere

Bola could not sleep. Her heart was heavy with dread. She looked at the table clock and trembled when she saw she had fifteen minutes left to take the walk out of the bedroom into the adjoining one. She had not anticipated what she had met when she arrived at Bosco’s door-step some ten hours ago. A half-naked woman with a glass half-filled with wine had let them in and Bosco, who looked like he just had a quick bath and was still dripping with water, had come in a minute later to welcome them. He had introduced the other woman as his cousin, much to her dismay, and had asked her to deliver a package immediately to her mother. The woman, who looked much older than him, looked disappointed and as she walked out of the house, she cast Bola a hateful stare, muttering some words under her breath.

Bola caught the words and she shuddered. What had she got herself into?

“I am glad you finally came to your senses, my dear. I told you your father had nothing to offer you.” Bosco poured himself a glass of red wine, speaking in fluent Yoruba. “Do you like my house?”

Bola took in the big living room painted masterfully with cream and chocolate brown. The leather chairs and other furniture in the room matched perfectly. Everything was in perfect harmony and looked very tasteful. Only someone with access to good money could afford this. “It… it is beautiful.”

Boso smiled with pride. “I knew you would love it. One of the bedrooms is yours.” His eyes flew to the little boy sitting beside her. He added with less enthusiasm. “And for your brother too.”

Bola’s arm flew protectively over Tomiwa. “I can assure you he is a good boy. He will not give you any problem at all.”

“I actually don’t do well with little children around me. In fact, I don’t want them around me, but because this is about you and I love you very much, I am sure I can manage.”

“I am the only one he has and…”

“I know that.” Bosco interrupted her and took a large gulp of the wine. “As long as he does not stand in my way, I am sure we shall go along fine.”

“Thank you.” Bola nudged Tomiwa lightly and whispered into his ears. “Say ‘thank you’ to Uncle Bosco.”

Tomiwa stood up and prostrated on the floor. “Thank you, sir.”

Bosco turned his back against the little boy, hiding the little smile on his lips. He could not believe how everything was going so well beyond what he had planned. Now, he could move as quickly as possible. Not only did he have the girl under his roof, he also now had leverage over her. With her brother under his grasp, he could get her to do whatever it was he wanted. How perfect!

He turned around with a stern on his face. “Go into that room, boy. I want to talk to your sister alone.” He pointed at the room on the left side of the corridor. “There are some sweets and chocolates on the table beside the bed. Take as many as you want, okay?”

Tomiwa looked at his sister as if to seek her approval. When Bola nodded, he relaxed and ran into the room excitedly.

When the door was closed, Bosco cleared his throat and sat beside her. “I am so happy you are here, my love.” He traced a finger across her face. “I promise you that you will never regret this decision. This beautiful place can be yours if you do all I ask you to do, you know what I mean.” He traced the finger across her lips.

Bola shook slightly. “I know and I am prepared to do whatever you ask me. My body is yours. All I ask for is a good life for my brother and I.”

Bosco chuckled. “You cannot even imagine the kind of good life I have in store for you. Soon, you will be rolling in money. I mean good money and you will be glad you agreed to be my lover.”

Bola’s heart quickened in anticipation, but something still bothered her. “What… what about the woman that just left here? Is she really your cousin? She said something that made me think otherwise.”

Bosco’s face twisted into an ugly frown. “What did that fool say?”

“She said ‘Na turn by turn’.”

“Na turn by turn.” He repeated slowly. “Don’t mind her. She is just a jealous cousin. She actually came here to beg me for money to start up a business for her mother. I gave her what I could afford, but she was so greedy she wanted more. She thinks you also came here to beg for money. She doesn’t know you are my girlfriend.”

Bola did not know whether to believe or not, but he sounded sincere. “Okay.”

He inched closer to her and spoke softly. “So tonight, I should expect you in my room? Let’s say 2 am?”

So quickly? Bola did not expect she would have to start paying the price so early. “Well… i..um… I thought I could just rest a bit tonight. You know…umm… my brother is…”

“Your brother does not have to know and he should be soundly asleep by then. That is why I asked you to come into my room. It is the room opposite yours. I know you are a smart girl and you can find your way out without his knowledge.”

“But…”

“You promised me you would do whatever I asked. I am asking you to join me in my room at 2am. Is that something too much to ask?” Bosco looked disappointed. She had known this would come up, didn’t she? Then why was she pretending? Or could she be having second thoughts?

Bola stared at him in silence as her mind pondered on what to do. Bosco was the only available choice she had. If she refused his invitation and walked out of the house with Tomiwa, where or to whom would they turn to for help? She swallowed hard. “It is not a problem at all. I will be at your room by 2a.m.”

“Good.” Bosco looked into her eyes deeply. “I know you are a smart girl.” He stood up. “I have a business meeting now and may not return until night. The kitchen is open to you and full of food. You can cook something for yourself and your brother. Feel free in this house. It is for you and I now, okay baby?”

Bola nodded.

He bent and pasted a kiss on her forehead. “Love you so much. I have to dress up now or I will be late for the meeting.” He walked towards his bedroom and winked at her before closing the door after him.

Now, ten hours later with sleep far from her eyes, Bola knew the next minutes would take her life into another phase, but was she prepared for this? She looked at Tomiwa, who was sleeping peacefully and the way he clutched the pillow tugged at her heart. He had never slept with a pillow before and neither had he had a toy to hold dearly to his heart the way he held the pillow. Her heart yearned for a better life for him. It was her duty to give him that life.

She stood up from the bed and towards the door. She opened it as silently as she could and tiptoed outside, trying not to arouse the sleeping boy. When she turned, she found out the opposite door was slightly open and music was playing in very low volume, one could hardly hear it. There was also a strange and unmistakable smell coming out of the room, one Bola could recognize instantly and she stopped dead on her feet. What had she got herself into?

“Hey!” The voice was low and guttural. “What are you waiting for? Come here!” Bosco had appeared out of nowhere and stood in front of the door. “I kept the door open for you.”

“You are smoking Mary J, Bosco.” The words barely came out as a whisper. Bola was shocked beyond her wits. She had not bargained for this. How would she be able to keep herself and Tomiwa away from this kind of life? It was like jumping from frying pan into fire.

“Why do you always behave like a JJC? You are telling me you have not taken one before? Everyone takes it in Mushin, don’t they?” Without warning, he stretched out a hand and pulled her into the room, locking the door behind them. He pushed her forward. “Have a seat. I have a business proposal for you.”

Bola took in the large room and the big bed in the centre. In front of the bed was a small stool on which was a tray filled with little pieces of white substance that Bosco was packaging into small nylons.

“My God!” Bola placed her arms over her head in perplexity . “You are into drugs, Bosco. Is this the business you have been doing?”

Bosco glanced at her as if she just spoke like a foolish child. “Oh! You think selling pure water on the streets is what has given me this lovely house or my car? I said you should sit down.”

Bola shook her head in disagreement, heading towards the exit. “I want no part in this.”

“Too late.” Bosco sat down on the bed and reached for the side drawer, pulling out a pistol and placing it on top of the stool. “If you love yourself, you will do as I said. Sit down and listen to what I have to propose. If you fight this, I can assure you that this is a silent pistol and no one will hear a sound or suspect anything.” He continued wrapping the substance into nylons as if he did not just threaten her life.

Bola quickly covered her mouth to stop the scream in her throat. She walked like a robot to the chair beside the bed and sat at the edge.

Bosco picked some of the substance with his right index finger and placed it right under his nose. He inhaled it sharply and laid back as it took its effect on him. For some seconds, his eyes were dazed and looked like he had travelled thousands of kilometers away, then he exhaled contentedly and refocused his eyes on her. “You don’t know how good this feels. It is like going to heaven and back.”

Bola moved uncomfortably at the edge of her seat. “What do you want from me? I promise not to tell anyone about this. Whatever you want, you can do, but please, I don’t not want to have any part in this.”

Bosco cleared his throat, ignoring her plea. “You do not determine whether or not you will do this. You don’t have a choice. You will do this job to convince us that you are capable and then we shall decide whether to keep you or do away with you and your brother.”

“What… what job?”

“You have to deliver a package to one of my clients tomorrow. You will be taken to the venue where someone will come over to collect the bag from you and hand you another bag. This other bag will contain a lot of money so you should guard it with your life.            When the exchange is done, you will walk quietly and cautiously back to the car, which will bring you back here. Is that clear enough?”

“I have to deliver a package of cocaine? What if I am caught?”

“You cannot be caught or must not be caught. You must act as natural as possible. The lady who usually delivered this for me, unfortunately, has been done away with. So, consider this a test for you. Do this exchange successfully and consider your life changed for good.”

“How do you mean ‘done away with’? What happened to her?”

Bosco’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “We discovered she had been telling the Police about our operations and decided to deal with her before she put us into trouble.” He wrapped the final batch. “And if you do the same mistake, I promise you I will handle your execution myself.”

Execution? Bola quickly fell on her knees, her eyes filled with tears. “Bosco, I beg you please, if you love me like you say you do, please don’t let me do this. I did not prepare for this. Just let me go back to my room and get my brother and we shall step out of here as if we never came. I promise I will not tell anyone about your business.”

Bosco laughed sarcastically. “You wanted a good life and I am giving it to you and here you are begging me to take it back. What did you think? That I would give you a good life on a platter of gold? You have to work for it and right now, you do not have a choice here. You must do this job.”

“But I don’t want to!”

Bosco’s hand went to the pistol. “Then you will not give me much choice to use this on your little fool sleeping in the next room now.”

“What!”

“Yes! I will kill him without a second thought if you refuse.”

Bola started weeping. She could never have imagined things would turn out this way. She was to be a drug peddler? What if she was caught? What would happen to her? What would happen to Tomiwa?

“Save those crocodile tears and go and prepare yourself. I will be driving you there myself to make sure you do as you are told and we shall leave at exactly 8a.m. There is a school uniform for you inside the cupboard in your room. No one will suspect a school girl. And don’t think of escaping. Everywhere is locked right now. If I were you, I will concentrate on doing this job right if you ever want to see your brother again. You want a better life, you have it now. Get out of my room.”

Bola rushed at the door and quickly opened it. Her mind was on the next room where she had left Tomiwa. She wanted to hold him tightly in her arms and be sure he was safe. When she saw him sleeping soundly, she almost burst into another round of sobs. She climbed the bed noiselessly and pulled him into her arms as she thought of how to take them out of the dilemma her greed had pushed her into, but right now, her mind was empty, as blank as the starless sky up above her. Who could she call to come to their rescue? She knew nobody. They were alone in the devil’s trap. Her mind flew back to the old woman whom she had met at the Mall some days back. She doubted the woman would even want to come and help her, not after the disrespectful way Bola had treated her. Plus, Bola had discarded her card, so there was no way she could reach the woman. She had no choice. She had to do this job in order to keep them alive. She wanted a ‘better’ life, didn’t she? Now, she has got it.

 

***********************************

5:58am – Ezinne’s house

Ezinne stared down at her friend whose head laid on her laps. The previous night had been a nightmare. Pauline had spent most of it crying and making regretful statements about marriage and that had scared Ezinne to bits. Coming from a broken home herself, she had promised herself not to make the same mistake her mother made, getting married to a man whom she did not love, but had been forced to marry. At nine years old, her father had left the house and never returned, leaving a jobless woman to cater for herself and her child. Her mother, herself, had not been too supportive either and Ezinne had to live from one house to another, as a house-help, until she met The Edunjobi family whose kindness had turned her life around. They had taken her in and treated her like a daughter, and not a slave she had groomed herself to be. They had made sure she attended school and even funded her University education. She wondered what would have happened to her, if God had not made their paths cross. However, despite the kindness of her guardian, especially Mr. Edunjobi, she still had not got over the rejection she felt when her father took that walk out the door and never came back. And every time she thought she had recovered a bit, something would come up that would make her detest men more than ever.

She looked at her friend’s sad, sleepy face and felt like crying. Why should this poor woman have to go through this trauma for something she did not bring upon herself? Why would she have to go through such humiliation because she could not conceive? It was not that she committed abortion and had her womb destroyed. She was raped, for Pete’s sake, and that could have happened to anyone. Anger boiled within her. She suppressed the need to stand up and find her way to meet Pauline’s husband and talk some sense into his head. What an ingrate! Here was a woman who remained faithful to him all these years, while he was going about cheating, and all he could repay her with was this?

Pauline raised her head. “I am sorry to disturb you this way, Ezinne. I should allow you to have some rest.”

Ezinne looked at the wall clock. It was 6am already and her eyes were heavy with sleep. “I am fine, Pauline. You should be the one to rest. You were awake all through the night.”

“But what have I done to deserve to be treated like this?”

Here we go again, Ezinne thought wildly. She was afraid she might be forced to do something terrible to someone this Sunday morning. “Just stop worrying and rest, Pauline. Don’t worry, everything will work well for you in the end. Every plan of the devil will be destroyed by fire.” And I will break George’s head too.

Pauline looked up at her friend. She could see how Ezinne was trying hard to keep calm. The Ezinne she knew would not stay this long before reacting. Ezinne had always been the presumptuous one, always ready to counter every opposition standing in her way, or in the way of someone she loved. Pauline was only glad she had a friend she could run to at this traumatic moment of her life. She lifted herself off her friend’s laps. “It is 6 o’clock. We should start preparing for church.”

“We?” Ezinne could not believe her friend was thinking about attending church in her terrible emotional state.

“Yes, we. I have to be in church too.”

“I don’t think that is a good idea.” Ezinne discouraged her, taking in her frail form and puffy eyes. What would she do if she came face-to-face with her husband?

“I know what you are thinking. I want him to see that what he did to me has no effect on me anymore. I want him to know I have moved on.”

“You haven’t, Pauline.” Ezinne shook her head. “You are going through a lot right now and you are not thinking straight. We shall stay in this house together. No church for us today.”

“Okay.” Pauline agreed without further argument.

“Okay? Just like that?” Ezinne raised a suspicious eyebrow. She had anticipated more resistance over this.

“Yes, okay. You are right. I need to get my head straight, so I don’t do any foolish thing.” Pauline moved towards the bedroom. “I should sleep and you should too.”

“Good idea.” Ezinne yawned loudly, stretching her body on the sofa. “I will rest here. You can take the bedroom.”

Pauline smiled. “Thank you for being there for me all through the night. Sleep well.”

Ezinne nodded absently. Sleep was already taking over and she could not stop it in any way. Her mind and body were tired.

Pauline watched her friend relax into the sofa. She would count one to fifty and she would be out of here. She would find a way to the church, where she would begin a full-fledged revenge against the man who had hurt her without any sign of remorse. He married her for better, for worse, hadn’t he? He had made her life hell, now it was time to make his a nightmare. She would make sure he paid for every year of pain she had spent with him. When she was done with him, then she would face God. God would have to explain why He sat back and allowed all these to happen to her. Why He said He loved her, yet never showed it. Why He watched from afar as her life was torn to pieces. And why she should ever believe in Him at all. Everyone would pay in one way or the other. Four, five, six…

***********************************************

8.43am – St. George’s Hospital, Ikoyi

“Hi, mum. I was just about to call you when I saw your call. Coincidental, right? Shows we are of one mind.”

Lola rolled over on her side on the bed. She had been trying to reach her son after yesterday’s incident, but his phone was off and could not get him until now. “I don’t know about that. I have been dialing your number since yesterday, but couldn’t reach you. What happened to your phone?”

“Well, I had to do an urgent surgery on one of my patients and it took longer than expected. You won’t believe I almost lost her, but she finally came around at the last minute. I was so relieved. Is there a problem that you have been trying to call me since yesterday?”

“I want you to come home.”

“What!” Charles sounded irritated. “C’mon, mum! I told you I would try my best to make it next month and I thought you were satisfied with that. I am so busy this month I hardly have time to take a nap.”

“Charles my son, have I asked for anything from you desperately like this before?”

There was a resigned sigh on the other end of the line. “No, mum.”

“And you don’t think there could be a reason behind my insistence?”

“I know the reason, mum. It’s the same you have always given. You feel lonely and miss me so much. I know how hard it has been for you since daddy left and I have given you my word that I shall be with you soon. You’ve got to understand my situation too.”

Lola cleaned the tear that had slid down her face. “I wish your dad were alive. I would not have to resort to begging you to come home to see your mother.”

“Get over it, mum! Dad’s gone and life continues. Maybe you should get married again. You obviously need a companion and as much as I hate to admit, truth is I cannot fill that spot as much as you want me to. There are a couple of my close friends whose dads can fill the spot. I will be glad to make the introductions if you don’t mind.”

“I cannot believe you are suggesting this to me.”

“I just suggested the most reasonable solution to this loneliness problem. Truth is I cannot fly to Nigeria every time you need me and every day it’s clearer you need someone who you can depend on, on whose shoulders you can lay your head and who will hold your hands. As much as I want to be that, I cannot because I have got responsibilities of my own. I have a family I take care of, too. And if I ask you to travel down to the States, I know you will not want to. Plus I will not have time to keep settling disputes between you and my wife on how to raise our kids.”

Lola shut her eyes against the implications of her son’s words. She knew he said the truth. His wife, Geraldine, and she had never been on the same side, especially when it came to her grandchildren and as much as she did not want to interfere into her son’s family affairs, she had not been so pleased with the ungodly behavior of the kids the last time they were in Nigeria. And every moment she tried to correct them, Geraldine would always attack her, telling her she did not want her kids to be raised in the Jesus way. They were free moral agents and would be free to choose the kind of religion they wanted to practice when they were ready. About getting married again, that was out of the question. She had little time to live, so why waste time on getting attached to a man she would not be with for a long time? Plus, she was yet to get over Tobi. She doubted she ever would. Perhaps, she should resign to her fate. She would die a lonely widow.

“It’s okay, Charles. I just want you to know how much I love you and that no matter what happens, that love will never die.”

“Ummm… I don’t get it, Mum. What’s gonna happen?” Charles became disconcerted. “Are you okay? Just hold on. I promise I will be with you soon.”

“Everything’s fine, Charles. Extend my greetings to your wife and kids.”

There was a bit of silence as if Charles was thinking of how to respond. “I will. I love you, Mum.”

Lola cut the call and buried her head into the pillow. It ached to hear her son profess love for her yet he could hardly act it out.

“Was that Charles?”

Lola raised her head to see Dr. Aluko standing right behind her. She quickly cleaned her wet eyes, but it was too late. The doctor had seen the pain in her eyes. “Yes.”

“When are you going to tell him?”

Lola stared straight into his eyes. How long had he been eavesdropping? “I… I don’t know.” She stammered, unsure of her answer. “He isn’t ready for such news.”

“But you know you need him as a donor. Plus he is your son and deserves to know.”

Lola sat up. “So what do you suggest I do, Doctor? Tie him up and drag him down to Nigeria when he obviously doesn’t consider it important to come down and see his mother.”

“Perhaps if he understands the real reason behind your demand, he will come with the next flight.” Dr. Aluko moved closer to her, his eyes pleading. “We need a donor urgently, Mrs. Williams, and your son would be perfect, other things being equal.”

Lola knew the doctor was right and she understood the urgency of the situation, but it hurt her deeply that her son would only come down to Nigeria because of her health, and not because it was of his own volition. “Can’t we get someone else, just in case he cannot make it down soon enough? I mean… we can find another alternative, can’t we?”

“Yes, we can. But having your son down will make the process easier for us. Apart from being a donor, you will also need someone very close to you for support when you travel for the transplant.”

“Don’t worry, Doctor. God will provide the right person for me.” She tried to stand. “I think I feel very well enough to go home. I don’t want to spend another night in this place.”

Dr. Aluko looked at the poor woman, feeling sorry for her. Though she pretended to be strong on the outside, she was groaning within and he had been her doctor long enough to know once she made up her mind, it was difficult to persuade her. “Just give me a couple more hours and I will have you out of here, but one of my nurses will go with you to take care of you and report to me.”

“That’s fine.”

Dr. Aluko gave her a professional smile. “Thank you.” He walked towards the door. “You should rest. The next couple of weeks are going to be very hard on you, but I know you will come out fine. I have always known you to be a strong woman.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

The doctor nodded at her and closed the door gently behind him. Lola took in deep breaths, trying to put some calmness into her head, but it proved difficult. Her mind was in chaos, just like her health and she feared she might collapse even before the surgery.

I cannot do this, Lord. I feel so feeble right now.

No response.

Are you there, Lord? I am dying and need Your arms around me.

The room was quiet as a graveyard and Lola could not hear that familiar soothing voice in her head. She was alone. Alone with her problems. She burst into fresh tears. Nothing would ever be the same again.

TRIANGULAR (6)

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SATURDAY, 12TH NOVEMBER 2014

6.45am

Pauline woke up with a start. She just had a wonderful dream. She had been having the fun of her life with a man she once secretly admired, still admired, and it was as if the date should not end. Her eyes were still wet from the laughter that rocked her rib cage. Ola had been cracking enough jokes to light up a house and it appeared natural to him as the words flowed out like honey from the honeycomb. To everyone else in the restaurant, they looked like a beautiful couple, what they should have been if things had gone the way Pauline had secretly wanted. It did not matter that Ola was married with two kids and was only in Nigeria briefly for a business function. In-between their conversation, Pauline had appreciated the way his lips moved anytime he spoke and the way his neck arched to demonstrate his point of view. He was a very handsome and understanding man, the kind that would stand by his woman, no matter the circumstance.

She rubbed her sleepy eyes and stood up from the king-size bed that was partly rough, partly neat. Any time she saw the contrast, it reminded her of the loneliness in her life. That side of the bed should be filled by her husband and she ached for the past days when she would wake up wrapped like a baby in George’s arms and he would plant a morning kiss on her lips. It was more depressing to know that those arms were wrapped around another woman now. Which was one of the reasons she had looked forward to the meeting with Ola last evening, very excited that she would at least have some fun time with someone who would take her mind off her husband. Within her, she had also hoped for something else. To see if the spark she once had for Ola would still be there and if there could be a re-connection between them. Though she knew it was wrong of her to desire such, as both of them were married, there was a sinful excitement that came with trying to hook up with an old flame.

And while she waited for him inside the restaurant at The Four Seasons, the place they had planned to meet, her conscience kept eating her up, condemning her motives and when she had picked her phone and almost made the call to cancel the meeting, especially as Ola was running late, Ola had walked through the door, looking very dark, tall and handsome in his navy blue suit and with the brightest of smiles on his face and apologies on his lips. And when he hugged her fondly, Pauline could almost feel her heart explode.

“I am very sorry. The traffic was really mad. Lagos is a messed up place.” He said as they settled down on the table she had reserved. “Men! How do you guys cope with that killer-traffic and the death-trap potholes?” Then he softened. “My God! You haven’t changed, Pauline. Still as beautiful as ever.” His eyes were full of admiration. “Your husband is sure a lucky chap.”

Pauline forced a smile. If only he knew how ‘unlucky’ her husband felt.  “Well, you can say I am the lucky one.” She lied. She was not about to let Ola know of her woes. “He is a very wonderful husband.”

“Yes, I checked him out on Facebook.” A waiter walked up to them with the menu and Olisa collected them.

“You checked my husband out on Facebook?” Pauline was surprised he would do that. Did that mean he could be more interested in her than she thought he was? Would jealousy have pushed him to do that?

“Yes. I just wanted to see the lucky man who finally caught your heart.” His eyes sparkled like diamonds and Pauline’s heart melted. He passed one of the menu over to her. “Please make your order for anything you desire. Everything is on me.”

Pauline could hardly keep her mind on the items. Her heart thumped heavily and she tried to steady her hands. “How is your… your wife and kids?”

“I miss my kids. Wish I could have brought them here to have a feel of Nigeria.” He brought out his wallet, opened it and showed her a miniature picture of his kids. He pointed at them one after the other “This is Tayo and this is Tola. They are too American. They need to know their fatherland.” He made his choice on the menu and spoke quietly to the waiter before turning his attention back at Pauline. “How about your kids? I would really like them to meet mine maybe when I bring them to Nigeria.”

Pauline suddenly felt nauseous, praying that the ground would open up and swallow her. Why did he have to ask her that? Rub her problems on her face?

“Pauline, are you okay?” Ola grabbed her hands. “You turned stiff all of a sudden. Should I get you to the hospital?”

Pauline quickly recovered. “No, No… I’m fine.” She forced another smile. “My kids, you asked for, right? They are fine. I have two lovely girls, Mary and Martha. I am sure your kids will love them.” She turned her face to the other side and quickly dabbed at the corner of her right eye to stop the tear that hanged there.

“I know they will be as beautiful as you are.”

Pauline could only nod and she quickly beckoned to one of the waiters and made her order. All of a sudden, nothing on the menu appealed to her anymore, so the waiter was surprised when she only requested a bottle of water.

“Just water?” Ola laughed. “Come on, you can do more than that. Or is there something you are not telling me? A third on the way?” He teased, winking and smiling.

The laughter that came out of her lips sounded ridiculous to her ears. “Sorry to soil your fun, Ola. I wish there were a third.” Or even one at all. She quickly changed the subject before he made another comment that would lead to more lies. “So, tell me about this business you came to do.”

Ola relaxed on the chair, his handsome face taking on a business-like expression. “Oh, just properties. The retail industry here is growing tremendously and my company is looking for ways of coming in, so they asked me to come and do some underground research.”

“Like snoop around existing businesses and properties?”

“Yes. And see how we can come in and offer even better services.”

“Then you have met the right person.”

Ola sat upright. “How do you mean?”

“I work for a marketing research consultancy company, the best in town, really. And I am sure we can help your Company get the right info you need.”

“Wow! That makes my work so much easier. So you see our meeting again is ordained by God. I, not only, get my work done, I also will have the opportunity to spend time with an old friend.”

Old friend? Pauline shuddered lightly. Years ago, she had wanted more than being just friends with this man, but she lost. Now, that they have met again, it appeared ‘friend’ was all she would ever be to him. She sighed sadly. Life had given up on her entirely.

A loud noise in the living room snapped her out of her daydream. She quickly rushed to the door and unlocked it. George had Nneka in her arms and they were dancing around the room as if they just won a lottery. Pauline had not see George that happy for a very long time. He looked very rapturous and that made her a bit nervous.

She closed the door gently behind her. “What is it? What is the noise about?”

George walked up to her and grabbed her excitedly by the shoulders. “I am having a baby!” He shouted at the top of his voice. “God has finally remembered me. I am having a baby!”

“What!” Pauline could barely move from shock. “I don’t understand. A baby? From who?”

“Who else?” Nneka answered sharply. “I am having a baby. His baby” She picked up an item from the chair and positioned it directly in front of Pauline’s eyes. “See, I dey sure say you fit read pregnancy tests well, since you yourself go don take many before.”

Pauline could not miss the two faint lines that marked the little white stick in Nneka’s hand. It was not only clear evidence, it was also a mockery of what Pauline could never have, would never be.

“You are a liar!” Pauline grabbed the strand and dropped it on the floor, stamping on it with all her strength. “You are a big liar. How is even possible. You have just spent a week here and you are claiming to be pregnant? What kind of fool will believe that?”

“Are you calling me a fool?” George asked angrily. “You are the fool here, Pauline. Only a fool will be barren for many years and refuse to find something to do about it. You are an incomplete woman! And if you think I will allow your problems hinder my happiness in life, you are mistaken.”

“George, listen to me…”

“Shut up!” Nneka silenced her. “You think I be like you wey your belle don condemn finish? Or na because we allow you stay for this house?” She turned to George. “My love, me I cannot stay in this house with this kain insult o! if dis woman stay for this house, I fit lose my belle. Her wahala go too much for me.”

Pauline was horrified beyond reason. “Excuse me? What does this… this rat mean?”

“Nneka means three is a crowd, Pauline.” George replied curtly. “And she is right. You will be too much of a trouble to her and our baby.” He moved to wrap his arms around Nneka protectively. “You will need to excuse us.”

Pauline’s blood boiled like hot steam. “You cannot do that to me. I am the wife in this house and no woman, not even a village street dog, can take my place in my home. Remember our vows, George.”

George laughed in a sarcastic manner that made Pauline feel very foolish. “Vows? You talk of vows when you are going about town committing adultery with your boyfriends. You think I did not know about your date last night? Tell me, was it not another man you dressed up like a prostitute for?”

“What!” Pauline was shocked. Had he followed her up?

“You see, you cannot even deny it. For the first time in a long while, you dressed up as if you were going to see the President of Nigeria. You even used an expensive perfume and you thought I would not know what you were up to? Vows, my foot! Get inside and pack everything you have and get out of my house right now! I cannot take this nonsense anymore!”

Pauline fell on her knees, pleading with her husband. “Please, don’t do this to me. It isn’t what you think. It is …”

“Don’t let me have to repeat myself, whore!”

Whore? Pauline was horror-struck. What had she done to be called that? Tears slid down her face like water falling off a cliff. She bowed her head in deep-seated pain. I cannot do this anymore! I am a failure. My life is over. I just want to die now. I want to die now!

Two strong hands pulled her off the floor roughly and pushed her towards her bedroom. “Your presence in this house nauseates me.” George breathed hard on her neck. “I give you just thirty minutes to get out of here. If not, I will have to throw you out myself. And keep your crocodile tears to yourself. I know they are as fake as your womb anyway.” He opened the door and flung her on the floor. “Wherever you are, I will send you the divorce papers for you to sign. We shall finally go our separate ways, thank God. I, to a life of fruitfulness and you…” He eyed her with disdain. “I don’t care wherever you decide to do with your life. Good riddance to bad rubbish!” He walked towards the door. “Your thirty minutes has started counting.” He banged the door after him so hard that the picture on the wall fell off and shattered into pieces.

Pauline laid still on the ground for several minutes, devastated, wounded and totally broken-hearted. Her whole life flashed before her eyes and all the pains of the past and present came crashing down on her like waves on a stormy sea. For years, she had gone through shame and had thought she could finally make a meaning of her life when she married George. Little did she know her troubles just began and right now… right now, everything just crumbled as if all her effort through the years was not worth it at all. Was it her fault that she was raped? Was it her fault that her womb got damaged in the process? Was it her fault that she could never conceive?

I blame you, God, for creating me in the first place. You should have just taken my life that night when You had the chance.

Her eyes flew to the Bible resting on top of the bedside table. She could not remember the last time she went through it. Why would she want to? When the God of the Book had placed a curse on her. Where was He when the fools captured and carried her into the bush? Did He not see from Heaven when the tears gushed down her eyes and how she had prayed desperately for a miracle that never came? Did He not feel her pains when the rapist took their turns one after the other? Instead, He had stood watching as if… as if she never even existed!

Fuming with unbridled anger, she stood up, picked the Book and flung it across the room. She opened the drawer in which she kept her jewelry and picked out a small leather box and opened it. Inside was her wedding ring, the symbol of love and commitment that was made almost nine years ago. New tears welled up in her eyes. She remembered how she was filled with so much love for George as he slipped the ring into her finger. She had cried with so much passion that the Minister had to patiently wait for her to recover before he could continue with the solemnization. She had been so overwhelmed with the thought that she could finally love and settle with the man of her dream. Years after, she was living a nightmare. Enraged, she tossed the gold ring on the floor, crushing it with her feet until she was spent. But she wanted to do more. She wanted to burn down the whole room, the entire house. She wanted to burn up the memories, the painful memories she had built in this place. Still, she wanted more. She wanted revenge. Revenge against a man who had inflicted so much ache in her heart, who thought she was … what did he call her? An incomplete woman? Before he married her, he had said she made his world complete and had called her all endearing names. What happened to the man who had professed so much love? He had disappeared after three years of childlessness.

Her phone rang and she almost did not pick it up, but when she saw it was Ezinne, she changed her mind.

“Hello, Pauline. How are you?” Ezinne greeted with a cheery voice.

There was only irregular breathing on the other line.

“Hello, Pauline. Are you there?”

More ragged breathing.

“Am I on to Pauline, please?” Ezinne was starting to get worried.

“I don’t know who you want to speak with.” The voice was more like a hoary whisper. “But if you do not come and get me away from this house now, you will come and meet three dead bodies in less than thirty minutes.”

“Pauline, what are you saying? Wait! You…”

The line cut sharply in Ezinne’s ears. Quickly, she picked up her bag. “I am sorry, Tunde, But I have to leave now. My friend needs my help.” She stood up from the table where she had been having breakfast with a dude she met on Facebook.

“But we only just met. Okay, let me have your number.” Tunde raised hopeful eyes.

Ezinne cast him a scathing look. “Sorry, I find you uninteresting and we cannot meet again after today.”

The man looked dejected, but Ezinne didn’t care.

“Okay, just allow me to drop you where you are going.” Tunde made a last attempt.

“No worries, thanks. I can find my way.”

Tunde gave up as it was obvious his overtures would head nowhere. “So where are you off to?” He asked dispassionately.

Ezinne took the first step away from the table. “To save a life.”

*******************************************************************

7.30am

“Do you really have to go? Can’t Henry go instead? Why is he your assistant if you cannot delegate some duties to him?” Lola whined incessantly as she watched her husband zip up the bag in which he had packed his luggage he wanted to travel with.

“I want to seal this deal myself.” Tobi repeated for the umpteenth time. “We have come this far with negotiations. I do not want any little thing to disrupt it at this final stage.” He looked at his wife and stilled his heart against the concern he saw there. “You have to understand, Honey. We are looking at a deal worth billions of naira.”

Lola moved closer to him on the bed and touched his hand. “But if we do not get this business, it does not mean we will suffer for it, really. We are already comfortable enough and other deals will come.” She folded her hands like a sulking child. “I just don’t like the way you have been travelling about lately.”

“You mean you don’t like the way you have been alone lately.” Tobi’s grin covered his face. He knew his wife like the back of his hand. He knew how much she always wanted him to be around and how much she loved waking up by his side every morning for over thirty years. He kissed her forehead lightly. “Don’t worry. I will be back in a jiffy. You will not even realise I am gone. I promise to call you every hour.”

Lola jumped out of the bed angrily. It was obvious there was nothing she could do to change his mind. “You know you should try to call your son and demand that he comes home and takes over this business from you. If he were here, you will not have to be jumping here and there at this old age. At least, you will be able to trust him enough with this kind of deal if you cannot trust Henry.”

“Well, Charles has shown his disinterest over and over. He has stated emphatically enough that he wants to build his medical career and as tough as that is to accept, I am his father and have the responsibility to support and believe in him. After all, it isn’t that he is doing something illegal. You are well aware I have tried all I can to convince him.”

Lola moved towards the window, sulking. “And his wife is not helping matters either.”

“I don’t think I want to discuss your problems with his wife now.” Tobi lifted the bag off the bed and walked towards the door. He stopped at the window to kiss his wife on her right cheek. “I will miss you, honey. Promise me you will remain as beautiful as you are when I return.”

Lola looked up at his dark, handsome face and caressed his chin that housed well-cut grey beard. “If you promise to remain as handsome as you are.”

Tobi kissed her fully on the mouth. He inhaled her fresh scent and smiled. “I promise.”

“God go with you, my love. I sure will miss you for the next three days you will be away, but I will be fine.”

“I know you will. I leave you in God’s hands and I am confident He will take care of you.” He planted another kiss on her forehead and headed for the door. “By the time this deal is completed, we shall have enough money to start that Girls Foundation you have always wanted. That will be the first thing we shall do.”

Lola smiled for the first time that morning. “That would be wonderful, Tobi. I cannot wait for your return.”

“Goodbye, Love.”

Lola watched her husband leave the room, saw him enter the awaiting SUV and waved from the window as he was driven out of the compound. Little did she know that was the last time she would see him smile.

That was eight months ago and yet, it still felt like yesterday. Every morning, she still woke up disappointed anytime she turned on her bed, hoping to see his face, but was only rewarded by emptiness. Saturdays were the worst days. It was the day they would spend long hours on the bed, basking in each other’s arms and chatting about the week’s events, laughing over everything that happened. It was her favourite day of the week. Now, it represented gloom and she was not looking forward to what today had in store. She stretched lazily on the bed and wished she could speed up the day. There was a soft knock on the door and before she could respond, Dupe, her maid, walked in with a tray of bottle water and fruit salad.

“Good morning, ma.” She greeted as she dropped the tray and walked towards the window, opening the blinds to allow light in. “Sorry to disturb you, but you said I should wake you up this morning.”

Lola sat up on the bed. “I said so?” She could not recall telling her maid to do that. She racked her brain, but still could not remember anything related to that.

“Yes, ma. You told me to wake you up at 7am, just in case you were still asleep.”

“Did… Did I tell you why?” Lola stammered. She could not believe she was starting to suffer memory loss. The disease was already taking its toll and her heart began to beat faster. She normally never forgot things.

Dupe cast the older woman a funny look. “No. You just said I should wake you up at that time.”

“Go to the living room and use the landline. Call Dr. Aluko to come down immediately. I need a check-up. Hurry up!”

“Yes, ma.” Dupe did not like the look on her mistress’ face. She quickly ran out the door.

Lola ran a hand through her hair in frustration and picked up the bottle water to take some sips. What was happening to her? Her hands began to shake uncontrollably and the bottle fell off her hands without her volition. Next, her legs began to shake too and her muscles began to contract as if they would tear through her skin. She screamed in fright. What is happening to me? She tried to stand and fell on the floor, weightless like a piece of paper. Is this it? Is this how I will die?

Hold on, Lola. A gentle voice whispered into her ears. I will never leave you or forsake you.

The room began to go round and round and soon, everything looked hazy and began turning dark.

Into thy hands I commit my life, Jesus. Please don’t leave me alone.

Don’t worry, daughter. I got you.

***************************************

1.00pm

Bola turned restively on the mattress. Her mind was as unsettled as muddy waters. Since she returned from the party in the wake of the morning, she had not been able to take her mind off everything that happened there. She had never seen so much affluence and in one place. It was as if these people lived money, breathed money, even ate and drank it. They were not afraid to spend it, show off and did not have the slightest worry it would finish as if they had a whole lot of it stashed somewhere. Bola fantasized heavily. That was the kind of life she had always dreamed of. A life where she would never have to worry about money. Where she could have everything she desired at the tap of her finger. She would not have to think of how to feed her family, get her brother the best education or even live in this kind of dejected place. She would not have to steal anymore.

But there was a problem.

During the course of the party while she had been on the dance floor with a bunch of girls she had never seen before, Bosco had walked through the crowd and tapped her shoulder, asking her to follow him to the upper floor of the building. There she had met a group of four men who looked like they had the world under their grasp. The expensive drinks on the table and the way they puffed on their cigars made her uncomfortable, but Bosco had assured her she was safe. Nothing much happened except a little introduction and one of the men, the biggest of them whom Bosco referred to as ‘Chairman’, had asked her to turn around several times while he ogled her. Then he nodded with a look of satisfaction on his face and asked Bosco to take her back downstairs. Bosco had been full of smiles as he led her back to the dance floor and told her intimately into her ears that she was lucky and that her life was about to change for the better.

Hours later as they left and she asked him what the brief meeting was about, Bosco told her not to worry and that he would tell her in due time. But Bola was worried. In fact, she had been troubled from the moment she laid eyes on those men. She noticed the semi-nude girls who were around them and how the men stroked their naked bodies as if they owned them. As much as she needed money badly, she did not want to be like those girls; and she was afraid that was what Bosco would request of her.

The door flung opened and Baba staggered in, looking very drunk and not in control of himself. “You are still sleeping at this time of the day?” His words were slurred and Bola could barely understand his thick Yoruba.

Bola quickly stood up from the bed. “You are drunk again and it is just afternoon.”

“What can I do? That is the only thing that makes me happy, that makes me feel like the man I am.” He fell on the mattress with a clumsy smile on his lips. “I should thank you for that money. I know you did not go to your friend’s place to sleep, but wherever it is you went to, you should go there every day. Before you know it, we shall be rich.” He licked his lips in a seductive manner and spoke in a husky tone, stretching his hands at her. “Come here, baby.”

“What!” Bola shrank further away. Come here to what? Baba was really out of his mind.

Baba rose on his knees and stretched his hands towards her. “I said you should come here. Come and lie beside me. I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

“Lie beside you? You are not okay, Baba.” She tried to dodge him, but was not fast enough.

Baba launched at her and tried to force her on the bed with him. “You slept with other men last night, didn’t you? So stop acting like a baby. Just imagine I am one of them. I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Bola almost puked when the stench of his mouth floated into her nose and before she knew it, she released her right hand and placed a hot slap on his face. “Leave me alone!” She shouted at the top of her voice and wrestled herself away from his grip and out of the room.

Ashawo! You come back here now!” Baba shouted behind her. “You are just like your mother. Ashawo Oloshi!” He stood up and pursued her out of the house, ranting aloud and drawing people’s attention. “You think you can have your way with me like you have had with other men you have been sleeping around with?”

Bola did not wait to respond. Instead, she kept running and running, pushed by the fear of what just happened. Her eyes were filled with tears. How could her own father do that to her? She started crying uncontrollably and it did not matter if passersby noticed her or the dirty accusations her father cast at her back. Her life just took a worse turn. Where would she go to now? Going back to the house was never her option after her disrespectful act. Already, her father had tarnished her reputation and would not want her back. How could she ever have faith that she would be safe around him anymore and what would neigbours say about  her?

“Aunty Bola!” Tomiwa called out, trying to catch up with her as fast as his little legs could run.

She turned and quickly cleaned the tears off her eyes before he came close. “Yes, Tomiwa. I thought you were playing with your friends.”

“Yes, I was, but when I saw Baba shouting at you and the way you were running, I knew something was wrong. What happened again this time?” He sounded so sad.

Bola held his face in her hands. How could she get this seven year old boy to understand the gravity of what happened? “Just Baba getting angry for no reason.” She lied. “Don’t worry. This will soon be over.”

Tomiwa looked like he was going to cry. “You say that every time. Then something worse happens.”

Bola took him into his arms. “Don’t worry. This time I have a solution. We are leaving the house. You and I together.”

Tomiwa stared at her, eyes wide in disbelief. “Really? To where? Where will we get the money to get a new room?”

Bola closed her eyes for a minute, taking in deep, calculated breaths. She never would have thought she would reach this decision. “You remember that my friend that you said you did not really like?”

“That man that gave you money that day?”

“Yes, him.” Bola ruffled his hair. “You are a smart boy. That man is a good man and he has said we can come and live with him.”

“But…”

“There is no but. With him, we have a better life. Food on the table, money to send you to school. I will not have to worry about getting you new clothes.” She touched a large hole in his shirt. “And Baba will not have to shout at you anymore.”

Tomiwa looked very confused. “Are you sure he is a good man? He does not really like me.”

That question tore at Bola’s heart. Living with Bosco was not the best option, but it was the only one she had. She would rather live with him than go back home to a molesting father. “Don’t worry. I will protect you from him, I promise.”

Tomiwa held her tighter. “I will miss my friends, but I know I will make new ones. I also do not want to live with Baba anymore. He hates me. Sometimes, I wonder if he really is my father.”

Me too. Bola thought inwardly as she dipped her hand into her trouser pocket and brought out her small phone. It was time she made the decision she had been dreading. She dialed a familiar number and when the person picked up, a cold shiver ran down her spine.

“Hello, my… my love. Yes, I slept well. I just need something important from you.” There was a bit of silence as she listened to the receiver, biting her lips. “I just want to know if your offer of coming to live at your place is still open. I am tired of where I am and need to find a new place to stay.” She raked a hand through her hair. “No, not just me alone. I also need a place for my little brother. Please can you help me?”

Tomiwa watched his sister agitatedly. Would this be the escape they had always hoped for? The step into a better life? She loved his sister so much and would do anything to make her happy, even if it meant having to live with someone he did not like so much.

“Thank you so much!” Bola jumped excitedly. “You have just made my day. I promise you will not regret this! I love you too.” Bola cut the call and hugged her brother happily. “He said we can come and stay in his house for some days. He has a three bedroom flat in Surulere and he can give us one of the rooms.”

Tomiwa laughed heartily. “Really?” He jumped and held his sister’s waist. “Now we can be free from Baba. He must not know where we will be living so he will not come and disturb us again.”

“Baba will not know because we are leaving right away.”

“Now?” Bola pulled away. “But I have not said goodbye to my friends.”

Bola stroked his hair. “I am sorry, Tomiwa. I promise to bring you to see them soon. But we have to go now. If we go back, Baba will see us and may do something worse.”

Tomiwa sighed with regret and that tore at Bola’s heart. She knew she was asking too much from the little boy and she pitied him, but there was nothing she could do. Without waiting, she grabbed his arms before he pleaded some more and dragged him to the nearest bus stop. While a part of her was happy she was starting afresh, the other part condemned her and her decision. But right now, she did not care. Bosco was providing them a place to stay, better than the shack they were before, and if dancing to his tune for a while was the price she would have to pay, she would gladly pay it. Lying underneath Bosco did not mean she was a prostitute.  It only meant she was using what she had to get what she wanted until she could stand on her own feet. That was the difference between her and her mother. Her mother was a prostitute, who sold her body to all and sundry. Bola was a hustler. And hustlers always found a way out of every situation.  Even if they had to suffer for a while.

TRIANGULAR (5)

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FRIDAY, 11TH JULY 2014
6.13am

Pauline stood in front of the mirror and was amazed at how her eyes were lightened up with anticipation. She could not recall the last time she felt this pounding blood rush in her veins, the fast racing of her heart and how her head was about to explode with exhilaration. She was supposed to feel guilty for feeling this way, but strangely, she did not. Instead, she felt happy. A sensation she had not experienced in a very long time that it made her feel awkward. She had been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the week, since that moment she received that call that brought a flicker of hope into her declining life. She opened the drawer of the cupboard housing the mirror and her hands shook slightly as she brought out the Mary Kay collection she had not used for a very long time. She picked out the red lipstick and dabbed a little across her lips before rubbing them together. The way the lipstick transformed her face even shocked her herself. Little by little, she could catch a glimpse into her former bubbly beautiful self. Perhaps if she added a little more… she chided herself. It was just a meeting, it was not even a date. Just a reunion with an old friend. Well, an old flame. But still, that did not mean she could make up herself in such a way that even a passerby would notice she was trying to create an impression. Her eyes caught the Christian Dior Perfume she had not used for a long while. It was once her favourite scent and she once proudly wore it especially after her husband commented he loved the way it smelt on her. That was many years ago. Now, he barely recognized if she used any perfume at all. She picked up the red bottle and dabbed some on her body. Today was a special day in her life. A day someone would appreciate her for who she was and not who she was supposed to be. He would not look at her weaknesses, but rather appreciate her good sides and make her feel like a woman and not some burden he could not tolerate. A cross he was ashamed to carry.

By the time she was done adorning herself, Pauline smiled at the image staring back at her. This was how she was supposed to look every day – beautiful, radiant and lively, and right there, she made up her mind to find herself again. Just like everyone, she deserved a happy life, didn’t she? And if she could not get happiness in her home, then she would find it outside. She picked up her handbag and walked out of her bedroom. She did not even bother to greet anyone as she walked towards the door, not that they would reply if she did greet. Already, she was used to being ignored. That was the only way they could all live together peacefully. But the story was about to change, at least for her. By the time she returned to this house, she hoped to have had the best time of her life in many years.

“What is that smell?” The voice came from the dining table, at the entrance to the kitchen.

Pauline turned to see her husband having breakfast with his ‘new wife’ sitting beside him.

“Is that Christian Dior’s Poison?” George asked with interest. “It smells really good.”

Though she tried to deny it, Pauline was a little pleased that he could recall the perfume. At least it showed he still acknowledged her presence in the house. “Yes, it is. Good morning.” She smiled and walked towards the door.

“And you used makeup today. You look really good. Today must be a special day in your office.”

Pauline placed her hand on the knob. If only he knew how special it was. “Yes, it is very special.”

“You should use it more often, you know.”

Pauline could almost swear she saw a spark of admiration in his eyes, but it disappeared almost immediately as it came. She nodded at him and opened the door. “Have a nice day.” She didn’t wait for his reply before she closed the door behind her.

As much as she tried to act nonchalant, she had not been too comfortable with the way Nneka’s arms were placed around her husband’s back, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Even saying anything about it could cause a problem. It was no doubt George and Nneka were sleeping together and that tore painfully at her heart, made her feel incomplete. She hurried downstairs to avoid the urge of going back upstairs to start a fight. There was no need to waste time on a lost battle. Right now, she should start planning for her future. Right now, she should start looking for how to start afresh, and a time out with Ola seemed to be in the right directon. She could hardly wait for evening to come.

********************************

9.30am

“Good morning, Ma.” Thirty-five year old Rose greeted her boss as she entered the big office, carrying a big case of files. “I thought you were not going to come in at all this week. Thank God you are here now. There are many papers for you to sign.”

Lola looked away from the window and covered it fully with the drapes. “I know you must have been praying I should not come in today at all, Rose.” Lola teased her long-time Personal Assistant. “Sorry to burst your bubble.”

Rose dropped the files on the mahogany table and tried to hide a smile. “Not at all. I am very glad you are around. The office has been boring without you and there are a lot of things to sign.”

Lola sighed tiredly. “That is why we have a Chief Operating Officer to stand in my place any time I am not available.”

“Mr. Henry is not the signatory to our accounts. Only you are since the Chairman…” Rose could not complete the words.

Since the death of the Managing Director, things had slowed down a bit in the Company and while Mrs. Williams had tried to take over his responsibilities, it had not been easy for her to get the full grasp of things.

“I will just arrange the papers according to the order of importance and give any explanations you need.” Rose explained.

Lola walked to the table and scowled at the pile of paper on her table. How she hated paperwork! Her late husband had been the one doing this part of the job, while she had provided support in the little ways she could. Now, she was to do this alone. Sometimes, she wished she could just hand over the Company to her son, but on several occasions, he had indicated disinterest and had reaffirmed his love for his medical profession. These were times she wished she had more than one child. This was another reason she wanted him to come home, so she could get another chance to convince him to take over and she could finally take her mind off business and concentrate on her health. Her failing health.

Focus, Lola, focus! She reprimanded herself. Right now, this was not about her. It was about the Company and how she would keep it afloat. If anyone in the Company got a whiff of her deteriorating health, it would cause a lot of anxiety and affect the Operations of the Company. Already, it had taken God’s intervention to keep the Company together after her husband’s death and the shareholders had expressed their doubts, but through prayers and lots of meetings, she was able to regain their trust in the Company. Right now, she needed to put her act together and be the kind of boss everyone expected. Her health was her private life and should, in no way, interfere with the Company.

Her eyes flew to the Italian leather chair that once accommodated her husband and in her mind, she saw him seated comfortably, sorting through the papers, with a hot cup of coffee beside him and a young secretary helping with the paperwork. They had started this telecommunications Company together from scratch. She remembered when he was afraid to send the proposal to the Ministry of Information and Communication and she had kept pushing and pestering him until he had submitted it. The next week, they were invited to a meeting with the Minister and the following week, they started business. It had been a geometric growth from then. That was twenty five years ago and the business had grown so big that it had offices in almost every State in Nigeria and had become one of the four service providers in the industry. God had been good to them.

I know you have not left, Tobi. I still see your smile and the dimple on your left cheek. I still smell your perfume in this office and see your shadows in the darkness of our room. I still feel your breath on my neck as I dress up every morning. Life was beautiful with you. I hope I am smart and strong enough like you to keep our legacy going for as long as I have breath.

She sat on the chair and immediately took on a business-like expression, picking up a pen from the stationery case. “Okay, so where do I start from?”

Rose relaxed when her boss sat down to start the business of the day. At first, she thought her unkind reminder had sent the poor widow into a wave of painful memories and she chided herself for being too talkative. One would have thought after working with the graceful woman for almost ten years, she would have learnt some etiquette herself. She would be more careful from now on. She pushed the papers closer to her boss. “The first one is the final proposal for the ‘Express Yourself’ Promo to take off next month. We shall need twenty million naira for that campaign to launch successfully.”

Lola picked up her spectacles from the table and took a critical look at the proposal. She needed to take extra precaution against anyone defrauding the Company in whatever way. “Why is it twenty million naira. I thought the approved budget was eighteen million.’ She raised a curious eye.

Rose cleared her throat. “Yes, ma. You are right, but the Committee found out they needed an extra two million to increase the reward for subscribers. With that additional two million, if all goes well, it should bring us about five million naira.”

Lola understood the logic behind the calculation, but still… “Okay.” She signed the proposal. “I hope you people will not run the Company underground with all these campaigns you are shoving down my neck.”

“Not at all, ma. It is best for business and this is the first major one we shall be doing this year, plus it is very much still within the marketing budget for the year”.

Lola separated the signed paper and moved to the next. “What are these pictures for?”

Rose explained. “Those are pictures of all the ‘Tosin Ayoola’, the girl you told me to look for you. There are five existing people on Facebook bearing that same name, so I printed out their pictures for you to see which of them you wanted.”

“Oh!” Lola had completely forgotten about the crazy teenage girl-thief she met on Saturday. “Old age is fast taking over me. I didn’t even remember I asked you to do this for me.” A bigger storm has taken over my life. “Let me see.” She went through all the pictures carefully one after the other and shook her head. “No, she is not any of these girls. Are you sure these are all the people you can find?”

“Yes, I also checked through all other social media. Same faces kept popping up.”

“Then she must have lied to me.” Lola shook her head in distaste. “What an ungrateful girl! She gave me a lot of trouble at the Mall on Saturday and I remember adding to the goodies I bought her, I also included some cash in the nylon and my card as well. It’s been… how many days now? I doubt if she will ever call. Well, I thought I could get close to her and help her, but unfortunately, I guess it isn’t meant to be. Some people don’t just want to be helped.” She picked up the pictures, tore them and cast them into the nearby bin. “So what is the next one, please?”

Rose quickly launched into another explanation and by the time they finished getting all the documents signed some fifty minutes later, the least thing on Lola’s mind was a teenager who refused to be helped.

********************************
9.15pm

Bola shifted uncomfortably in the tight, little dress she had on and she tried to pull it down to cover her laps that were completely bare for the world to see, but the dress didn’t budge. Instead, the more she tried, the more upward it went, almost revealing her panties and as if it intended to spite her for her foolish decision. She wished she had stayed back and provided an excuse not to make this party, but her greed had pushed her to this. Bosco had promised to give her some money for the weekend if she attended and when she thought of other options of getting money and found out she had none, she had reluctantly agreed. It was only for some few hours, she had consoled herself, and her little brother would at least have something to eat. So, when it was almost time to leave the house, she told her father she was going to spend the night with her friend across the street. He barely acknowledged her request with a nod. He did not care whatever she did with herself, as long as she brought food to his table. With a final look at Tomiwa, who was sleeping peacefully on the mattress, she stepped out of the house and hoped she was not making the biggest mistake of her life. Some minutes later, her heart told her she was.

When Bosco picked her at the bus stop with a brand new 2013 Toyota Camry, he had frowned distastefully at her choice of clothing. She had worn a faded pair of trousers over another fading, red shirt. That was her best outfit, but it was not good enough for her new, rich boyfriend. He had looked at her as if she had just stepped out of garbage and had driven her over to a boutique at the end of the street, where he had picked out the shortest red dress she had ever seen.

“Wear this.” He had said. “This party is for hot girls, not some poor holy holy girls.”

Bola had collected the dress and went to the fitting room to try it and when she saw the transformation in the mirror, she almost changed her mind. Besides the laps that were exposed, the dress also had a plunging neck line that almost had her breasts pouring out.

“Beautiful!” Bosco had exclaimed when she stepped out. “My sweet Caro, My african queen.” He showered her with praises as unbridled lust shone from his eyes.

“I cannot wear this.” She covered her breasts with one hand and pulled down the gown with the other. “It is too open.” She felt like a prostitute. “Please let me wear something more covering.”

“Omo, this is sweeti pororo.” Bosco’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “This is exactly how you should dress to the party. Pretty lepa toh sexy! All my boys will be jealous me tonight.” He moved closer to her and placed her right hand on his head. “See as my body dey hot because of you. Omo, na me get luck pass today!” He took a quick look at her back. “Mehn! Your backyard na to die for! Why you dey hide these wonders since na?”

Bola looked down at herself. The way Bosco spoke made her hate herself in the dress more. A part of her wanted to tear the cloth off her body and run away for her dear life, while the other part, the more reasonable part, wanted to stay and attend the party, so she could have some money for the weekend. She wanted the money so desperately that she could do anything right now for it, and if looking like a prostitute for some hours of the night was all the price she had to pay, then she would pay it. But would that be all? What if there was more? She quickly brushed the warning aside before it got the better part of her.

A hand rubbed her laps in a seductive way and she cringed inwardly. What was she thinking? As soon as they left the Boutique and got into the car, Bosco hands had never left her. Every now and then, his right hand would stray, caressing her laps and telling her how soft and enticing they were. She tried to push further away from him, but that did not stop him.

“Calm down, baby.” Bosco cast her a quick glance from the driver’s seat. “No be my fault. Your legs are baaad. I don’t know why you hide them. Many girls are looking for this kind of sugar laps and they don’t have it. Shey you know you can get anything you want in this world with what is between those hot legs.”

Bola shut her laps together instinctively. She had no intention of letting anyone get in-between those legs tonight, not even Bosco. Her heart pounded heavily. She wished she could stop the car and find her way back to the house, but she had no dime on her and they had been on the road for about twenty minutes, so going back home was not an option. She did not need a seer to tell her she was in a precarious situation and that she just made the most foolish decision of her life. She tried to draw his attention away by changing the subject. “Who are those who will be in the party?”

“Just my friends and their girls, that’s all.”

“And when will it end?”

“Don’t worry, baby. I will get you back to the house before 5am. No one will even know you came home late.”

Bola sat straight in shock. “5 a.m.? I thought you said it was just for a couple of hours?” Had he lied to her?

Bosco laughed. “It is called a night party, baby. Na all night we go flex. Relax. You go enjoy am. Stop behaving like a small girl.”

Bola took in deep, nervous breaths. How would she be able to stay calm all through when inside her head, warning bells were ringing loud?

Just then, Bosco drove them into a corner and into a big compound enclosing a bar and a large parking space filled with big and expensive cars. Bola had never seen such array of beautiful cars all in one place before and her mouth was wide agape in wonder.

“I tell you say I dey roll with the big boys now.” Bosco spoke proudly when he saw the awe on her face. “Get ready, my love. Your life is about to change and you will thank God you met me.” He put off the ignition and got out of the car.

Bola could not contain the excited thumping of her heart as she got out of the car. So this was where the money was; this was what living big looked like. She took in the colourful duplex where low music was playing and saw some men sitting on the patio of the first floor and having the fun of their lives with some half-naked girls dancing around them.

A Mercedes Benz pulled in beside them and a young lady looking very elegant and expensively dressed came out of the car and walked towards the duplex, clutching her designer bag in her hand.

Bosco moved closer to Bola and pulled her gently at the arm. “You can be like that girl if you choose, you know. Everything is possible in a place like this.”

Bola was stiff on her feet. She had never been this close to rich people and she did not know how to react. All her life she had spent dealing with the poorest of the poor and here she was, just some steps away from the kind of life she dreamed of.

Bosco laughed quietly into her ears when he noticed how rigid her body was. “Welcome to Paradise, iyawo mi.”

Bola nodded absently. Bosco was right. This was Paradise. And she intended to enjoy every bit of it for the few hours they had. “Let’s go in.” She could hardly contain her excitement. For a moment, she forgot her reservations. All she wanted was to have a taste of what being rich felt like. Just a tiny taste was all she craved for.

“Now, that’s my girl!” Bosco curled his arms around her neck and guided her to the duplex. As they went into the house, his eyes caught a pair of eyes of one of the men on the patio and he nodded at him. The man nodded in response and turned back to the lady on his laps, as if nothing just happened.

Bosco smiled inwardly. Things were going just as he planned and before the party was over, someone would be richer and that person was him.

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